Tuesday, April 22, 2008

US health official applauds HCMC’s AIDS program


The US Secretary of Health and Human Services has praised Vietnam's plan to establish methadone clinics and reconfirmed the US’ commitment to help Vietnam control pandemic influenza.
Secretary Michael Leavitt met with the top health and government officials of Ho Chi Minh City Thursday as part of his five-day Southeast Asia trip – with stops in Vietnam, Singapore and Indonesia – to promote food safety and review America’s collaborative efforts with other countries to reduce the spread of infectious diseases.
Leavitt said that because Vietnam had submitted a sound proposal for combating HIV, the country had been made one of 15 nations to receive support from the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).
Vietnam received about US$86 million in funding from the project this year – nearly a five-fold increase since 2004.
Le Truong Giang, vice chairman of the city’s AIDS Committee and vice director of its Health Department, said part of that money has been used to fund a new free methadone program that aims to reduce the number of AIDS infections transmitted through intravenous drug use.
The program, approved by the city’s Health Department last month, aims to treat 750 opiate drug users in three pilot districts – 4, 6 and Binh Thanh.
Giang said the program, still in its preliminary stage, could be expanded nationwide if results in the HCMC districts were positive.
He said methadone distribution would begin next month.
Karl White, a member of Leavitt’s delegation and also the Substance Abuse Advisor to Vietnam, said the US approved methadone treatment for heroin addicts in 1965 and since then, 60-65 percent of recovering addicts treated with the drug have not relapsed.
Leavitt is scheduled to visit Ben Tre Province’s fish-processing and poultry-raising areas today.
In Indonesia earlier this week, the US Secretary criticized the island nation’s decision to withhold nearly all of its bird flu samples from the World Health Organization since January 2007.
Indonesia has been reluctant to share their viruses without receiving vaccines in return.
Indonesian authorities have argued that poor nations should retain the rights to any vaccines made from their samples, a stipulation that is not guaranteed by WHO.
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