Monday, 25 Mar 2019
HEALTH & EDUCATION

First HIV patients in Vietnam get antiretrovirals covered by social health insurance

Updated at Friday, 08 Mar 2019, 15:20
The Hanoitimes - Historically, ARVs were provided free-of-charge for HIV patients in Vietnam through international donors. However, over the last five years, the PEPFAR program has been working with the Vietnamese government to transition the responsibility for financing the country’s HIV response from donors to SHI.
The Vietnam Authority for HIV/AIDS Control (VAAC) under the Ministry of Health and the US President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) on March 8 hosted four simultaneous events in Hanoi, Nghe An, Ho Chi Minh City, and Hai Phong to celebrate the first patients receiving antiretroviral (ARV) drugs covered by social health insurance (SHI).

These events mark an important milestone in securing domestic sustainable financing for the HIV response in Vietnam and ensuring that people living with HIV access treatment services, the US embassy said in a statement.
 
US Ambassador to Vietnam Daniel Kritenbrink attends the event celebrating the first patients receiving antiretroviral (ARV) drugs covered by social health insurance. Photo: US Embassy
US Ambassador to Vietnam Daniel Kritenbrink attends the event celebrating the first patients receiving antiretroviral (ARV) drugs covered by social health insurance. Photo: US embassy in Hanoi
The Hanoi event was led by US Ambassador to Vietnam Daniel J. Kritenbrink and Minister of Health Nguyen Thi Kim Tien. Over 400 representatives from government agencies, international organizations, community based organizations working with HIV patients, people living with HIV, and media agencies were in attendance in all the four launches.

Historically, ARVs were provided free-of-charge for HIV patients in Vietnam through international donors. However, over the last five years, the PEPFAR program has been working with the Vietnamese government to transition the responsibility for financing the country’s HIV response from donors to SHI. Key in the transition was revising the Social Health Insurance Law and benefits package to include funding for HIV treatment; integrating HIV clinics in the public health system; increasing the number of HIV patients enrolled in SHI from 40% in 2014 to 89% in 2018; procuring ARVs through SHI; and creating procedures for HIV services reimbursement by SHI.

Across the world, very few developing countries are applying their SHI programs to cover HIV treatment services. Among the PEPFAR focused countries, Vietnam is the only country mobilizing domestic resources through SHI to cover HIV treatment services. This can be attributed to the Vietnamese government’s strong commitment to the long-term sustainability of its HIV/AIDS response.

Moving forward, VAAC will continue working with PEPFAR and partners to support provinces to increase SHI coverage for people living with HIV and achieve HIV epidemic control.

Vietnam is also a global leader in achieving viral suppression, at 93%. Viral suppression is a measurement of the degree to which the HIV virus is in a person’s bloodstream. When an HIV positive patient achieves viral suppression and has an undetectable viral load, not only does s/he have a significantly increased likelihood of improved health outcomes, but it also eliminates their likelihood of transmitting HIV.
Minh An
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