A March 8 article in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin highlights health security initiatives taking place in Vietnam to mitigate the risk of and provide treatment for AIDS.
The Center for Excellence (COE) in Disaster Management and Humanitarian Assistance, which is a U.S. Pacific Command direct reporting unit, has been working in concert with other government and non-governmental organizations since 2002 to help fund various AIDS-related programs throughout the Asia-Pacific region. These programs were started with funds from the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief program (PEPFAR) and the U.S. DoD HIV/AIDS Prevention Program (DHAPP).
While COE’s engagements under PEPFAR include India and Indonesia, the program is largest in Vietnam. COE also executes military-to-military HIV/AIDS programs with DHAPP funding in East Timor, Papua New Guinea, Nepal, Cambodia, and Laos. A program with OHDACA funds was also recently launched in Bangladesh.
During 2008, approximately $3.5 million was used by COE to facilitate HIV/AIDS education, prevention, treatment and care activities among Vietnamese active-duty military, new recruits, family members, and civilians. To date, more than 15,000 Vietnamese military recruits have received HIV prevention information, nearly 270 military healthcare providers were trained in HIV/AIDS treatment and care, and more than 350 patients have received HIV symptom care, with 171 patients on anti-retrovirus treatment.
To address long-term, big picture prevention, COE has provided funding for two laboratories that support comprehensive HIV/AIDS monitoring, with an additional two scheduled to open this May. Additionally, COE has helped fund two blood banks that are ensuring a safe supply of blood throughout the country, with two more scheduled to open in May.
While many of these projects are funded in part or in whole by COE, the value of the initiative expands beyond face value. As Craig Gima states in his article, these types of engagements help develop personal and professional relationships. They also help increase the readiness of forces in the region to respond to contingencies. Every service member who is educated in HIV/AIDS prevention is one more person who is better prepared to offer support when the region calls.