This year, the number of HIV patients has increased more than last year because the fourth wave of the Covid-19 epidemic has distracted the attention given to HIV, disrupting treatment and prevention programs; consequently, it leads to a rise in disease burden and even HIV incidence.
In a talk with reporters from SGGP Newspaper, Deputy Director of the Ministry of Health’s Department of HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control Hoang Dinh Canh said that it is necessary to strengthen HIV/AIDS prevention and control activities.
In 2021, some 1,300 medical establishments provide counseling and testing services nationwide, and 201 HIV testing laboratories are eligible for confirmation of HIV-positive cases in 63 provinces and cities.
Of approximately 478 HIV treatment facilities in the country, 270 HIV treatment facilities covered by the Health Insurance Fund are currently treating about 161,000 people.
The Methadone program has been implemented in 341 HIV treatment facilities and more than 52,000 patients are beneficiaries of the program. Moreover, by the end of October 2021, over 800 patients are receiving buprenorphine treatment in eight provinces and cities.
However, HIV/AIDS is still a burden of disease in Vietnam. Each year, more than 12,000 new HIV infections are detected and about 2,000 HIV-infected people die. An estimated 230,000 people living with HIV are still alive. It is estimated that around 230,000 HIV people are still living.
Access to and maintenance of treatment for people living with HIV and HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) were hampered by social distancing mandates, isolation, and blockade during the Covid-19 pandemic.
In addition, people living with HIV decided to receive treatment in faraway facilities because of social discrimination and self-discrimination. These people get more difficulties in maintaining treatment during the social distancing.
According to the World Health Organization’s report, HIV infection is a significant independent risk factor for both severe/ critical Covid-19 presentation at hospital admission and in-hospital mortality. It found that the risk of developing severe or fatal Covid-19 was 30 percent greater in PLHIV compared to people without HIV infection.
Worse, the closure of many businesses due to the impact of the Covid-19 epidemic has resulted in many people living with HIV being unemployed, and their health insurance cards interrupted and expired. This makes HIV-infected people unable to access health insurance services, including ARV drug treatment.
The Ministry of Health issued Decision No. 3355 on the plan of the Covid-19 vaccine campaign in 2021-2022 in July. Accordingly, HIV-infected people with chronic diseases are given priority to receive the Covid-19 vaccine. Currently, most people infected with HIV have got Covid-19 vaccines.
Ho Chi Minh City alone has mobilized HIV-infected treatment facilities to participate in screening and immunizing HIV-infected people. Because HIV-infected people are currently being managed and treated at ARV drug treatment facilities, the Department of HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control has issued guidance on vaccination counseling for HIV-infected people.
In the coming time, the Department of HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control will liaise with relevant units in administering the Covid-19 vaccine for HIV-infected people. However, medical workers must screen to detect acute opportunistic infections amongst HIV people. Medical workers will delay the administration of vaccines until the patients infected with acute opportunistic diseseas are cured. HIV-infected people do not have to declare their HIV status before vaccination, so they are not afraid of revealing their identity and are not afraid of stigma and discrimination.
According to statistics from the Ministry of Health, from the beginning of 2021 to now, the country has recorded 10,925 new HIV infections. Among people newly diagnosed with HIV, 84.8 percent are men, mainly aged 16-29 and 30-39, the main route of transmission is unsafe sex and via blood transfusion.
Also from the beginning of 2021 to now, 1,528 HIV-related deaths have been recorded. It is estimated that by the end of 2021, the country has detected about 13,000 HIV-positive cases and 2,000 deaths.