HIV/AIDS spreading in Vietnam amid funding cutback

by 08 August 2015 Last updated at 15:36 PM

A HIV/AIDS patient being examined by the doctor
A HIV/AIDS patient being examined by the doctor - A cut back in funding for HIV programmes has led to a spread of the disease in all cities and provinces in Vietnam.

Speaking at a meeting to mark the 10th year anniversary of the Ministry of Health's HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control Department, Nguyen Hoang Long, said that since 2007, Vietnam has identified more than 30,000 new HIV cases a year, mostly among young people of working age.

Long, who is the head o the department, said most of people living with HIV (PLWH) are in big cities, such as Hanoi, Haiphong and HCM City. Unprotected sex is among the major transmitters of HIV.

He said Vietnam was facing with many difficulties in the fight against HIV/AIDS, mainly due to limited funding. Discrimination against PLWH is widespread.

Hoang Dinh Canh, deputy head of the Ministry of Health’s HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control Department, told reporters that international aid sources for Vietnam’s HIV/AIDS prevention and control programmes will peter out by 2017, posing huge challenges for the country's fight to curb and deal with the spread and treatment of the virus.

Canh said up to 80 percent of Vietnam’s total budget for HIV/AIDS prevention and control activities came from international aid agencies. But due to the world economic downturn, and Vietnam’s rise in the economic rankings, assistance for treatment of the human immunodeficiency virus, which is the precursor to acquired immune deficiency syndrome, has fallen and is expected to end by 2017.

Three years ago, funding for Vietnam's HIV/AIDS prevention and control was VND200bn. In 2015, it has dropped to tens of billions of VND.

"If we do not have any measures after the aid sources stop, we will face many problems in the HIV/AIDS fight. Many PLWHs will die, while those who are being treated using the effective anti-retroviral (ARV) drug cocktail will face drug resistance. This will pose a high risk for the resurface of a new HIV/AIDS epidemic," Canh said.

To date, up to 58 percent of the 260,000 PLWH have not yet been given ARV treatment due to limited funding. The State budget only accounts for five percent of total funding for ARV, with the rest dependent on international sources.

Funding for ARV treatment in Vietnam is expected to be at VND84bn in 2015, with VND152bn needed by 2017.

The price of ARV is rising, as Vietnam's ministries and agencies have yet to reach an agreement to bid for the drugs using international standards.

Vietnam is trying to reduce PLWH and aims to eradicate the epidemic in 2030, but the target will not be feasible if the country lacks funding for this fight.

Truong Thi Mai, head of the National Assembly's Committee for Social Affairs, said it was necessary to persuade PLWH to buy health insurance cards so they can have more chances for the treatment.

Mai said the government should have policies to create jobs for PLWH so that they can improve their lives, help reduce the infection risk in the community through education, and call for organisations to support for HIV/AIDS prevention and control.

Many experts worry health insurance will put more pressure on the country's social insurance fund, which is expected to fall into deficit.

Mai said that, at the end of this year, the National Assembly will reconsider the national programme for HIV/AIDS prevention and control to increase State budget allocations to make up for the drop in international aid sources.


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