Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) service for HIV prevention was officially launched in Hanoi on April 16.
PrEP allows people who do not have HIV but are at substantial risk of infection to prevent HIV by taking a pill every day, as part of a combination HIV prevention strategy.
Phan Thi Thu Huong, vice director of the Vietnam Administration for HIV/AIDS Control of the Ministry of Health, said PrEP is extremely effective when taken correctly, and would reduce the risk of HIV infection via unsafe sex by 90 percent or via injection drug use by 70 percent.
According to vice director of the Health Department of Hanoi Hoang Duc Hanh, the service will first be provided at the Dong Da healthcare centre, Long Bien healthcare centre, and Hanoi Medical University before it is expanded in Hanoi.
PrEP was first piloted in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City in 2016. The service is being provided in eight clinics in Hanoi.
The Ministry of Health made it part of the direction for HIV/AIDS care and treatment in 2017 and passed a plan to roll out the service for the 2018-2020 in 2018 with the provision of free antiretroviral drugs for HIV treatment.
During this expansion period, the Vietnam Administration for HIV/AIDS Control in coordination with projects and organizations made PrEP available at 43 private and state clinics in 11 provinces and cities. Over 2,000 people are using the service.
By the end of 2018, the number of alive HIV carriers in Vietnam was estimated at 250,000, with 10,000 new infections found a year.
Provinces and cities reported in 2018 that HIV infections reduced significantly in the groups of drugs addicts (from 29-30 percent to 9-10 percent) and sex workers (from 5 percent to 3.4 percent) but rose in the group of men having sex with men (from 7.4 percent to 11.4 percent).
It is estimated that Vietnam has around 174,000 men having sex with men (MSM) aged from 15-49, including over 30,000 in Hanoi (or 17.5 percent).
Since 2015, the World Health Organization has strongly recommended PrEP as an additional prevention choice for people at substantial risk of HIV.