|Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is showcased at the PrEP program 2018-2020 review meeting held on Tuesday in HCM City. — VNS Photo Thu Hằng|
HCM CITY — Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) implementation has undergone innovation and transformation to offer new and diversified access options to people at risk of HIV, according to the Việt Nam Authority for HIV/AIDS Control (VAAC) under the Ministry of Health.
VAAC’s analysis of the PrEP programme’s progress shows an increase in new and continued PrEP enrollment despite the impact of COVID-19.
Việt Nam, now in its second year of scale-up of the PrEP programme across 27 provinces, has adapted to continue to meet the needs of key population groups, said Dr. Phan Thi Thu Hương, deputy director of the VAAC.
“This year, because of COVID-19, we had to rapidly adapt services to ensure key communities could continue to access essential health and HIV-related services,” she said at the PrEP program 2018-2020 review meeting held yesterday (November 3) in HCM City.
“We still saw high numbers of new PrEP enrollment, clearly highlighting the need for the services," she said. “We need to integrate learnings from COVID-19 lockdowns, related to the use of telemedicine and home lab sample collection and delivery of medicines, into routine service delivery moving forward."
The programme’s success to date has relied on intense demand generation campaigns and diversified offerings, such as the newly introduced event-driven PrEP (ED PrEP) option for men who have sex with men (MSM) and PrEP availability at a range of clinics – public, private and key population-led and owned community clinics.
ED PrEP is an effective PrEP dosage approach that offers additional choice, flexibility and convenience to MSM.
ED PrEP was approved by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in July 2019 and is now included in Việt Nam’s revised PrEP guidelines.
It offers an option to MSM to take PrEP only when they are at risk of HIV, rather than taking it every day.
“We are committed to supporting VAAC, and our implementing partners have introduced new prevention strategies backed by evidence to ensure that PrEP clients get the support they need to stay on PrEP,” said Dr. Lopa Basu, USAID senior HIV/AIDS technical advisor. “VAAC has demonstrated outstanding leadership in accelerating epidemic control and we look forward to continuing our partnership to support this important work.”
“PrEP is one of the most powerful HIV prevention tools, and key population groups affected are starting to become more interested in PrEP,” said Nguyễn Minh Thuận, director of the Alocare Clinic in HCM City.
The clinic has worked closely with the USAID/Healthy Markets team to offer high quality services, Thuận said.
“PrEP will be key to controlling the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Việt Nam,” he said.
PrEP is a game-changing preventive medication that can reduce the risk of HIV infection by more than 92 percent if taken daily as part of a combination HIV prevention strategy.
PrEP was introduced in Việt Nam in early 2017 through Prepped for PrEP, a pilot project jointly led by VAAC and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)/PATH Healthy Markets.
The pilot showed that key populations were interested and increasingly enrolled in PrEP and there was a high retention of those continuing to take PrEP.
Since PrEP's initiation in 2017, more than 12,000 people have enrolled. — VNS