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Vietnam Launches Major Program to Provide Anti-HIV Pills in 11 Localities

Vietnam has launched a national program to provide anti-HIV pills to high-risk groups in honor of World AIDS Day, which fell on December 1.

The program was launched by the Ministry of Health in collaboration with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the global health non-profit organization PATH, VnExpress reports.

The initiative aims to provide high-risk groups with pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to prevent HIV from taking hold and spreading throughout one's body. PrEP is recommended as an optimal prevention choice for people at risk of HIV exposure, such as those with an HIV-positive sexual partner, according to the World Health Organization. Furthermore, the pill can reduce the possibility of getting infected by 92% to 99% percent.

The targeted high-risk group includes MSM (men who have sex with men), transgender people, HIV-negative partners of infected people who are not viral load suppressed, and those who use drugs, the news source shares. However, experts cautioned that the method does not prevent other sexually transmitted infections and is not a form of contraception, therefore it should be integrated with other sexual and reproductive services.

The goal of the plan is to reduce the number of HIV-infected people to under 0.3% of the population by 2020, while PrEP services will be offered in 11 provinces by that year with 7,300 planned registrants.

These locations include Hanoi, Hai Phong, Quang Ninh, Saigon, Thai Nguyen, Dong Nai, Tay Ninh, Long An, Tien Giang, Vung Tau and Binh Duong. In Hanoi, the Institute for Development and Community Health, Light has begun selling PrEP for VND550,000 for an individual per month, VnExpress reports.

PrEP was put into use at several clinics across Saigon as part of a trial in June 2017 through the USAID Market Growth Facility project. Vietnam will become the second country in Asia, following Thailand, to offer PrEP nationally.

Mary Tarnowka, the US Consul General in Saigon, told VnExpress that the program will bring Vietnam one step closer to its goal of eliminating HIV by 2030.

In Vietnam, there are over 250,000 cases of HIV/AIDS infection. Vietnam ranks high among substantial HIV-infected countries in Asia-Pacific, with 0.3% of the population impacted, according to VOV.

[Photo via VnExpress]

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