HIV/Aids policies 'make inroads'

HIV/Aids policies 'make inroads'

Most patients now get free medication, NHSO says

Participants in the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration-sponsored campaign to raise awareness of HIV/Aids infections march through Siam Square shopping area carrying placards and red ribbons in November 2016. (Photo: Pattanapong Hirunard)
Participants in the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration-sponsored campaign to raise awareness of HIV/Aids infections march through Siam Square shopping area carrying placards and red ribbons in November 2016. (Photo: Pattanapong Hirunard)

About 94.6% of HIV-infected patients are receiving free anti-retroviral drugs under the universal healthcare coverage scheme, 77% of whom have no trace of the virus in their blood, the National Health Security Office (NHSO) said on Wednesday on World Aids Day.

Of all the 305,493 people who are living with HIV/Aids and have registered under the healthcare scheme for treatment in the fiscal year ending Sept 30, 289,116 (94.6%) have been receiving anti-retroviral treatments, said Dr Jadej Thammathacharee, secretary-general of the NHSO.

Of those HIV patients, 81% have cut their viral load by continuing their treatments and 77% now have no traces of HIV detected in their blood, he said.

Over the past 17 years, the NHSO has been increasing healthcare benefits for people living with HIV/Aids under the scheme, ranging from pre-HIV test counselling to anti-retroviral treatments, he said.

The NHSO contributed to Thailand's success in 2016 when the country was certified by the World Health Organisation as the first nation in the Asia-Pacific and second in the world to succeed in preventing the transmission of HIV from mothers to children, Dr Jadej said.

Most lab tests required for supporting the treatment of people living with HIV/Aids including viral load and drug resistance testing are being provided free under the NHSO's health scheme, he said.

The NHSO is ramping up its budget for financing these treatments and other services, he said. For fiscal 2021 a total of 3.6 billion baht was granted for these treatments and related services, up 332 million baht from the previous year.

The additional budget allowed for the inclusion of new treatments and services including a new anti-HIV cocktail combining the Sofosbuvir and Velpastasvir anti-retroviral medications, he said. This is believed to lower the risk of liver cancer in patients who have been taking antiretrovirals for a long time, he added.

In terms of HIV prevention and early detection, the NHSO has been financing the provision of free condoms and promoting HIV testing among at-risk groups.

All of these efforts are being carried out as part of the government's national strategy for ending HIV/Aids-related problems by 2030, he said.

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