Vietnam plans to start providing free health insurance coverage for 230,000 people with HIV using funding from the state budget.
Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper cited an official source as saying that the Law on Health Insurance will be amended to make this possible in February next year. "It’s very good news," the official said.
Less than 40 percent of people with HIV in Vietnam are now covered under the national social health insurance scheme. The goal is to bring that to 100 percent.
Funding for treatment services, mostly antiretroviral therapy (ART), has so far relied on international donors. But they have announced to cut back their financial support and to completely withdraw by 2018 because Vietnam is now a middle income country.
International donors contributed 70 percent of the treatment costs in Vietnam in 2008-2010, according to a USAID report on sustaining HIV/AIDS treatment services in Vietnam, where new cases have declined in recent years.
It remains to be seen how free health insurance can help people with HIV in the context of reduced financial support from donors.
Health insurance covered 59.3 million people in Vietnam, or 67 percent of the country's population, the Vietnam News Agency reported last year. The country aims to expand the scheme to 80 percent of the population by 2020 in an ambitious plan toward universal coverage.
Those without free coverage now can pay VND621,000 ($27) a year to join. Vietnam's annual average income was around $2,100 last year, according to the World Bank.