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United States and Vietnam launch oral HIV pre-exposure option to reduce new infections

June 12, 2017 by PATH

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 US 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, US 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."

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 US President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) through the US 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 [WC1] 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 US 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.

For more information, please contact USAID/PATH Healthy Markets at hma.vietnam@path.org.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID)

USAID is the lead U.S. Government agency that works to end extreme global poverty and enable resilient societies to realize their potential. Following 50 years of improving lives through development and humanitarian assistance, USAID is the principal U.S. Government development agency partnering with countries throughout the world to promote peace, prosperity, and security. Please visit www.usaid.gov or follow https://www.facebook.com/USAID/ for more information.

PATH
PATH is the leader in global health innovation. An international nonprofit organization, we save lives and improve health, especially among women and children. We accelerate innovation across five platforms—vaccines, drugs, diagnostics, devices, and system and service innovations—that harness our entrepreneurial insight, scientific and public health expertise, and passion for health equity. By mobilizing partners around the world, we take innovation to scale, working alongside countries primarily in Africa and Asia to tackle their greatest health needs. Together, we deliver measurable results that disrupt the cycle of poor health. Learn more at www.path.org.

Healthy Markets

The Healthy Markets project is a five-year initiative that aims to grow a viable market for HIV-related goods and services capable of meeting the needs of populations facing the greatest risks. Healthy Markets aims to improve the environment for private-sector and social-enterprise engagement and investment; increase demand for HIV-related goods and services; and generate a sustainable supply of quality HIV commodities and services that are accessible and affordable. By growing a market for HIV-related goods and services, Healthy Markets (1) contributes to improved sustainability and country ownership of the HIV response and (2) supports efforts to reduce the HIV incidence, including 90-90-90. Healthy Markets is funded by USAID and implemented by PATH in partnership with the Center for Creative Initiatives in Health and Population and T&A Ogilvy. PATH works closely with manufacturers, distributors, private health care providers, pharmaceutical and diagnostics companies, national- and local-level governments, social enterprises, and community-based organizations.