Viet Nam News
PHÚ THỌ — Dozens of residents of a mountainous commune in the northern province of Phú Thọ fear they may have contracted HIV after receiving allegedly contaminated injections at a private clinic.
Residents of Kim Thượng Commune in Tân Sơn District will receive free screening and free HIV/AIDS treatment if they test positive, Dr Hoàng Đình Cảnh, deputy head of Việt Nam Authority of HIV/AIDS Control (VAAC), said.
Yesterday morning, a working group – including health ministry officials and doctors from the National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology – arrived at the scene to investigate and calm residents.
Hà Kế San, vice chairman of Phú Thọ People’s Committee told the media that there were 42 HIV cases newly recorded at Kim Thượng Commune out of nearly 500 who underwent HIV testing after the rumours started.
“The HIV/AIDS authority deemed the rate to be quite high in a population of 6,000, but not especially so, since there are at least 61 communes in the country with even higher rate of HIV/AIDS infection,” San said in a press conference held yesterday afternoon.
San said it is still too early to determine the reason behind this high infection rate, but the health ministry has already started working on the case.
“The most important point is to provide counselling and support for the unfortunate patients. We must ensure that the people are aware of the fact that there are now treatment methods for the disease, the Government-supplied anti-retrovirus ARV can enable a healthy long life,” San said.
The counselling is supposed to be done first before telling the patients of their situation as well as treatment.
“The investigation is not easy and needs a lot of time. Based on our previous experience in similar incidents, it will take as long as two months to arrive at a definitive conclusion,” Dr Cảnh told Vietnam News Agency.
Kim Thượng is an underdeveloped locality, with Mường ethnicity people making up 85 per cent of the population.
In recent weeks, the quiet commune descended into panic as several people needed to take HIV tests, after a middle-aged female tested positive for the virus.
She said she had gone to the private residence of nurse-practitioner Hà Trần Thảo, who is currently working at Tân Sơn General Hospital, to get an injection.
Rumours started circulating that Thảo might have reused dirty needles on multiple patients, resulting in the spread of infection, however, in a written statement, Thảo denied the allegations.
The mass blood tests were part of a research on communicable and non-communicable diseases in the community conducted by Tân Sơn health clinic and not mass HIV tests, according to authorities.
The results of the survey have not been publicly made available as they contain sensitive and private information.
“Given the travelling difficulties and scattered clusters of residence in the commune, locals often opted to visit houses of doctors residing in the area instead of going to proper health clinics. The doctor in question is not licenced to operate a private clinic. But the cause is still needed to be studied,” Lê Quang Thọ, deputy head of Phú Thọ’s health department said, not ruling out the possibility that the patients themselves might have covered up their own risky behaviour or made false statements due to mental duress. — VNS