National Conference 30 Years of HIV Response in Viet Nam and 2020 World AIDS Day

Remarks by Kamal Malhotra, United Nations Resident Coordinator in Viet Nam

1 December 2020

  • Excellency Permanent Deputy Prime Minister and Politbureau Member Truong Hoa Binh;
  • Excellency Minister of Health Nguyen Thanh Long;
  • Excellencies, Ambassadors,
  • Distinguished guests, colleagues and friends,

On behalf of the UN family in Viet Nam, it is my great honour and pleasure to join this year’s World AIDS Day national celebration.

World AIDS Day this year is not like any other. It is special because Viet Nam is marking 30 years of the national response to HIV with already many remarkable achievements but also with a view to achieving an even more ambitious goal of ending AIDS by 2030. It is also special because we are fighting two overlapping epidemics – HIV and COVID-19.

I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Viet Nam’s success thus far in controlling COVID-19 under the leadership of the Government and with the dedication of all healthcare workers fighting at the forefront against the virus. Viet Nam has also been quick and decisive in introducing innovative and flexible policies to ensure uninterrupted access to essential HIV services in the period of the COVID-19 outbreak for people living with HIV and other key HIV affected populations. For this, I salute the leadership and welcome the timely actions of the Viet Nam Authority for HIV/AIDS Control (VAAC).

Looking back at the journey of 30 years of responding to HIV and AIDS in Viet Nam, it is amazing how the lives of people living with and at higher risk of contracting HIV and AIDS have changed over this period.

As a result of Viet Nam’s strong political commitment and leadership in the HIV response, treatment is now available upon diagnosis of HIV for all people living with the virus. HIV prevention approaches including innovative pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and opioid substitution therapy (OST) are also in the process of being impressively scaled-up and all options for HIV testing including community-led and self-testing are now available, with communities most affected by HIV making increasingly greater and more meaningful contributions to the national HIV response including, and in particular, through the fight against HIV-related stigma and discrimination.

Earlier this year, Viet Nam approved the National Strategy to End AIDS by 2030 in additions to approving amendments to the Law on HIV/AIDS, with the aim of better protecting the right to access to HIV services for all people in need and greater sustainability of the national HIV response.

Viet Nam has been leading by example in embracing innovations as well as evidence-based and pragmatic approaches in the response to HIV in this region.

Your efforts in controlling the HIV epidemic also contribute significantly to the achievement of other Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) including the SDGs on gender equality, reducing inequalities and partnerships for achieving the goals, among others.

Please accept my warm congratulations for all of Viet Nam’s remarkable achievements in responding to HIV and AIDS over the last 30 years that Viet Nam can clearly be proud of, including during this challenging year of 2020!

I would also like to recognize and sincerely appreciate the hard work of the health and HIV and AIDS authorities and workers in all cities and provinces, as well as of the hundreds of social and community-based organizations, of people living with HIV and key HIV populations and communities, academia and development partners. The achievements I have mentioned above could not have become reality without all of you and the great solidarity and shared responsibility that you have demonstrated over the years.

Colleagues and friends,

As we approach the end of 2020, the world and Viet Nam are still at risk of a new wave of the pandemic and the news from HCMC last night was not good in this respect and should make us more careful – and Viet Nam has also and remains heavily impacted in socio-economic terms by COVID-19. More than ever, we need the strength of solidarity and shared responsibility to protect the right to health of all people, especially those who are most vulnerable and have been left behind, if we are to keep the HIV and AIDS response on track and achieve the goal of ending AIDS in Viet Nam by 2030.

The stakes remain high. Only by putting people at the centre, further promoting human rights and evidence-based HIV responses, acting together with continued strong leadership, commitment and by leveraging everyone’s potential to make a difference—the Party, parliamentarians, Government, communities of people living with and affected by HIV, community health workers, service providers, social organizations, private sector, other development partners—can new milestones and gains be achieved.

If it acts together with even greater solidarity and shared responsibility, Viet Nam can keep its promise to leave no one behind and end AIDS as a public health threat by 2030, thereby significantly and positively contributing to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. The last miles are always the most difficult in any journey, but together we can make this happen.

By continuing to pursue a whole-of-society approach in this area, Viet Nam can remain at the forefront for the HIV response in the region, sharing its rich experience on how to leave no one behind with the region and the world. This experience has not only been a tremendous force for change and changed the course of HIV and AIDS in Viet Nam but has also demonstrated that it is possible to achieve Universal Health Coverage and many of the Sustainable Development Goals even for lower middle income countries.

Please be assured that the United Nations will continue to remain by your side on this journey leading to the end of AIDS in Viet Nam by 2030!

As the UN Secretary-General has said in his speech for World AIDS Day this year, let today be a reminder of the need to maintain focus on a global pandemic that is still with us nearly 40 years after it emerged and let us recognize that, to overcome COVID-19 and end AIDS, the world must stand in solidarity and share responsibility.

I would like to thank everyone for your contributions to this journey so far and encourage you to keep the faith for its last remaining miles till 2030.

I thank you for listening. Xin cam on va chuc suc khoe.

Green One UN House, 304 Kim Ma, Ba Dinh, Ha Noi, Viet Nam