A WHO mission to Vietnam from Monday to Tuesday highlighted solutions to curb the spread of HIV/AIDS before it moves into the general population.
The measures include rapid scaling-up of harm reduction interventions; a comprehensive continuum of treatment, care and support; behavior change communication; program management; and monitoring, supervision and evaluation, according to a press release issued Tuesday by the World Health Organization (WHO) in the country.
"Vietnam is truly at a crossroads in the response to the HIV epidemic. Whether the epidemic can be controlled within at-risk population such as injecting drug users and sex workers, or whether it will spread further into the general population will be down to the response to these challenges," Kevin De Cock, Director of the Department of HIV/AIDS, WHO Headquarters was quoted in the release.
The Vietnamese government has streamlined the health sector structure, and developed many national normative guidelines and tools to serve as foundations for better implementing health- related HIV/AIDS services.
Major efforts are now underway to rapidly scale-up antiretroviral treatment with financial commitment from the government and foreign donors. Vietnam's target is to provide the treatment to 70 percent of those in need in 2010, according to the release.
"If immediate action is taken to expand and accelerate interventions such as harm reduction and prevention of mother to child transmission, this will have a direct impact on the future course of the epidemic," Hans Troedsson, WHO Representative in Vietnam, said in a statement cited in the release.
In 2005, an estimated 260,000 people were living with HIV in Vietnam, a 12-fold increase since 1995, and over 13,000 local people died of AIDS in the year, according the WHO in the country.
Vietnam plans to reduce the HIV/AIDS infection rate among its 83-million population to below 0.3 percent by 2010, and keep it unchanged after 2020.