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International News

America Wages New War in Vietnam on AIDS

December 4, 2009

At a little clinic in the Mekong Delta, Vietnamese with HIV/AIDS can access antiretroviral therapy provided by the US President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). About 340 patients get their ARVs at the Tinh Bien clinic, one of 55 US-supported sites. Of the 32,000 Vietnamese receiving ARVs, more than two-thirds do so because of support from the United States, which has spent more than $300 million fighting HIV/AIDS in the country.

The United States has spent $85 million this year alone on PEPFAR in Vietnam, accounting for 80 percent of US humanitarian spending in the country. Besides ARVs, PEPFAR pays for family assistance, HIV prevention programs and anti-stigma campaigns.

HIV-positive children living at the Mai Hoa Center, a PEPFAR-supported compound near Ho Chi Minh City, were recently expelled from a neighborhood school after their first day of attendance. The school expelled the children after the parents of other students objected to their presence. "The other kids refused to play with me," said Huyen, 13, who would not say her last name. "They pointed at me and said, 'She has AIDS.'"

At the Mai Hoa Center, a memorial with rows of urns holds the remains of former residents. "We used to have one or two funerals a day," said Tran Van Nhan, a center volunteer. "Now we only have one a month."

"These drugs are making a very big difference," said Mai Hoang Anh, the top AIDS official in An Giang province. "They allow people to stay active for many years, just like Magic Johnson."

In Vietnam, the sharing of needles by drug users is the main source of HIV transmissions. The Obama administration is considering using PEPFAR funding for needle exchange programs, said Steve Mills, director of Family Health International, which runs the Tinh Bien clinic.

Back to other news for December 2009

Adapted from:
Associated Press
11.28.2009; Ben Stocking

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
See Also
Vietnam and HIV/AIDS