Feature story

High-level mission urges Vietnam to optimize use of resources to achieve universal access

08 October 2010

Leaders in Vietnam’s AIDS response urged to optimize resources and focus HIV interventions for key populations at higher risk to help achieve targets for universal access. 

The delegation met with Deputy Prime Minister Truong Vinh Trong. Credit: UNAIDS

A UN high-level delegation headed by the UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Asia and the Pacific, Dr Nafis Sadik and Special Advisor to the UNAIDS Executive Director, Mr JVR Prasada Rao visited Vietnam this week to discuss its AIDS response with key stakeholders—including Deputy Prime Minister Truong Vinh Trong, Chairman of the National Committee for AIDS, Drugs and Sex Work Prevention and Control. 

The UN high-level mission to Vietnam is part of a regional assessment across countries in Asia and the Pacific taking place over 2009-2010 to improve the effectiveness of AIDS responses in the region. 

The HIV epidemic in Vietnam is concentrated among key populations at higher risk. While HIV prevalence among adults aged 15-49 is estimated at 0.44%, prevalence is significantly higher among men who have sex with men, intravenous drug users and sex workers in the country. 

Development and provision of a standard package of HIV prevention, treatment, care and support services for key populations of higher risk are among the priority actions recommended by the UN delegation for the country. 

The delegation met with People Living with HIV in Hai Phong City. Credit: UNAIDS

Vietnam has seen recent progress in its response to HIV. The country has scaled up needle and syringe programmes over the past two years. In 2009 drug use was decriminalized which has helped create a more supportive environment for harm reduction interventions. The total increase in the number of clean needles and syringes distributed went from two million in 2006 to 24 million in 2009. 

A recent study found that 94.6% of male intravenous drug users reported using sterile injecting equipment the last time they injected and HIV prevalence among the drug using population has declined from a high level of 29.4% in 2002 to 18.5% in 2009. 

“I am impressed with the strong commitment and leadership showed by Deputy Prime Minister Truong Vinh Trong and leaders of the relevant ministries in addressing HIV,” said Dr Sadik. “This is essential to make policy change happen to scale up access to HIV services.” 

“Vietnam should calculate the financial resources needed to support a comprehensive response to HIV up to 2015 and aim to provide at least one third of the total amount from government budgets to ensure the sustainability of the national response,” Mr Prasada said, underlining the delegation’s recommendations. 

The UN delegation discussed the national response to HIV with a wide range of stakeholders including National Committee members, donors, local and international civil society organizations, provincial HIV authorities, people living with HIV, people at higher risk of HIV infection and the Joint UN team on HIV in Vietnam. 

Civil society representatives underlined the need for increased and sustained resources. “There are two districts in our Hai Phong City still not covered by HIV interventions and people living with HIV there are suffering from stigma, discrimination and lack of access to services,” said Ms. Doan Thi Khuyen, member of a self-help group in their meeting with the delegation. 

“I would like you to advise HIV authorities to provide more resources so that services are available in all districts,” she proposed. 

The delegation will make recommendations for Vietnam to achieve its universal access targets and the AIDS-related MDG, identify the main gaps and barriers and actions to achieve them, and the financial resources and technical assistance needed.