United States and Vietnam Launch Oral HIV Pre-Exposure Option to Reduce New Infections

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United States and Vietnam Launch Oral HIV Pre-Exposure Option to Reduce New Infections
United States and Vietnam Launch Oral HIV Pre-Exposure Option to Reduce New Infections
Nisha Morrisey / USAID

Oral HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is a powerful tool for HIV prevention, especially for those most at risk

For Immediate Release

Monday, June 12, 2017

Oral HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is a powerful tool for HIV prevention, especially for those most at risk

HO CHI MINH CITY, June 12, 2017—Today, leaders and senior officials from the Ministry of Health (MOH), the U.S. Embassy, PATH, local authorities, community groups, private-sector companies, and celebrities came together to officially launch pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) services in Vietnam. This encouraging and informative event marked a major step forward for Vietnam in its strategy to reduce new HIV infections.

“Once again we see Vietnam leading the region in HIV innovations and making key HIV services available to those who need them most,” said Mary Tarnowka, U.S. Consul General. “We greatly value our long-standing U.S.-Vietnam partnership and are working together to propel Vietnam towards the 90-90-90 goals by 2020[1].”

Oral HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, is a way for people who do not have HIV but are at substantial risk of contracting it to prevent HIV infection by taking a pill every day as part of a combination HIV prevention strategy. It is an antiretroviral drug that contains tenofovir. When people are exposed to HIV through sex or injection drug use, the oral HIV PrEP may work to keep them from being infected. When taken consistently, PrEP has been shown to reduce the risk of HIV infection in people who are at high risk by up to 92 percent. Since 2015, the World Health Organization has strongly recommended PrEP as part of a combination HIV prevention strategy for people at substantial risk of HIV.

“PrEP is a new and exciting evidenced-based method for HIV prevention that is increasingly being adopted around the world, including in lower- and middle-income countries,” stated Dr. Nguyen Hoang Long, the director of VAAC (Vietnam Administration for AIDS Control). “By introducing PrEP services in Vietnam, we have the opportunity to dramatically reduce the number of new HIV cases and eliminate HIV in Vietnam by 2030.”

The introduction of PrEP services has been a long-standing goal of the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) through the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID’s) Healthy Markets project. “The integration of PrEP into HIV services in Vietnam will provide a huge boost to reduce new HIV cases among those most at risk,” said Dr. Kimberly Green, chief of party for Healthy Markets, implemented by PATH. “The aim of this PrEP pilot is to model how services can best be targeted and offered in a sustainable way. Results will be used to inform national guidelines and future PrEP financing.”

Similar to the successful HIV community-based testing pilots launched in 2016, PrEP is first being introduced among key populations who are most at risk of contracting HIV. This includes men who have sex with men, transgender women, and HIV-negative partners of HIV-discordant couples. A survey conducted among men who have sex with men and transgender women found that 91 percent would use PrEP if it were available.

To reach and develop trust among these groups, PrEP is being offered by both private and public clinics, including those run as social enterprises by members of key populations themselves. Community-based organizations, which offer HIV testing by lay providers and HIV self-testing, are involved in screening people to see if they are eligible for PrEP and referring them to services. 

Mr. Nguyen Anh Thuan, from PrEP-provider Galant Clinic, shares: “PrEP is a great way to protect yourself against HIV, along with practicing safe sex and using a condom. The response we’ve gotten from our clients towards PrEP has been very positive, and prescription rates are increasing—people in Vietnam are ready and eager for PrEP!”

PrEP prescriptions began in March 2017. The pilot program will run until September 2018, at which time the results will be documented and presented to the MOH for next steps.  Through PEPFAR, the U.S. Government works closely with the MOH; Vietnam Social Security; the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria; and others to develop a lasting legacy that continues as Vietnam assumes more funding and responsibility for HIV prevention, treatment, and eradication.

Prepped 4 PrEP: The Official Launch of Pre-exposure Prophylaxis in Vietnam was hosted by VAAC, USAID, and PATH.

[1] 90-90-90 is a treatment target by UNAIDS that by 2020, 90% of all people living with HIV will know their HIV status; 90% of all people with diagnosed HIV infection will receive sustained antiretroviral therapy; and 90% of all people receiving antiretroviral therapy will have viral suppression.