Making news

First patients receive ARVs covered by social health insurance

Simultaneous events were held in Hanoi, Hai Phong city, Nghe An province and Ho Chi Minh City on March 8 to celebrate the first patients receiving antiretroviral (ARV) drugs covered by social health insurance (SHI).

Co-organised by the Vietnam Authority for HIV/AIDS Control (VAAC), the Ministry of Health and the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the 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.

Over 400 representatives from government agencies, international organisations, community-based organisations working with HIV patients, people living with HIV, and media agencies attended the four events.

HIV patients need lifelong treatment that can be costly and early and continuous treatment enables them to lead healthy lives and effectively eliminates the risk of sexual transmission to their partners, according to a press release issued by the US Embassy on March.

Historically, ARVs were provided free-of-charge in Vietnam through international donors. However, over the last five years, the PEPFAR programme, through its activities, has been working with the Government of Vietnam 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 benefit 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 per cent in 2014 to 89 per cent 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 programmes to cover HIV treatment services. Among the PEPFAR focused countries, Vietnam is the only country mobilising domestic resources through SHI to cover HIV treatment services. This can be attributed to the Government of Vietnam’s strong commitment to the long-term sustainability of its HIV/AIDS response.

Vietnam is also a global leader in achieving viral suppression, at 93 percent. 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 do they have a significantly increased likelihood of improved health outcomes, but it also eliminates their likelihood of transmitting HIV.