Tran Van Tinh, Advisor, Online Strategies, EpiC Vietnam
Rachel Coley, Technical Advisor & Project Manager, EpiC Vietnam
Featured Image: A senior delegation from Tay Ninh Pride and the U.S. Government celebrates the launch of the Tay Ninh Pride Pharmacy and Clinic. From left: Vo Thanh Toan, director of Tay Ninh Pride Social Enterprise, Dr. Nguyen Van Cuong, deputy director of the Tay Ninh Department of Health, Robert Greenan, acting U.S. consul general, Dr. Lopa Basu, senior TB and HIV advisor at USAID/Vietnam and Daniel Levitt, EpiC Vietnam project director (Photo Credit: Thanh Thang, Tay Ninh Pride).
For more than 20 years, FHI 360 has worked with the Government of Vietnam and community partners to strengthen the health system’s ability to find, test, and sustain treatment for people living with HIV. Today, the Meeting Targets and Maintaining Epidemic Control (EpiC) project, supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), is working in Vietnam to help local partners take increased ownership of the financial and technical management of the HIV response as international funders and organizations focus on local sustainability. Alongside this strategy, Vietnam has gradually adopted and expanded the model of community-led HIV service delivery. Community-led HIV clinics provide an effective way to attract community members who have an increased likelihood of acquiring HIV, while expanding access to HIV prevention, testing, and treatment in a friendly and flexible environment.
Tay Ninh Pride’s history
Tay Ninh Pride is a local social enterprise organization in Tay Ninh Province, Vietnam. Established in 2016 by 15 members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI) community, Tay Ninh Pride works to develop a support network for LGBTQI people throughout the province by advocating for their rights and providing access to HIV services, including HIV counseling, testing, commodities, and antiretroviral therapy (ART). In 2018, Tay Ninh Pride began providing the LGBTQI community with referrals for pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) at provincial public health facilities.
However, since PrEP became available in Tay Ninh Province, uptake among LGBTQI individuals has been low. Recognizing the need to increase PrEP enrollment, Tay Ninh Pride began working with LGBTQI community members in March 2021 to understand the challenges and motivators they encountered around PrEP access and use. Through discussions with the community, Tay Ninh Pride found that the timing of PrEP administration at public facilities and the fear of being identified as HIV positive were major concerns. The discussions also revealed that a community-led PrEP clinic would address many LGBTQI community members’ concerns about seeking PrEP services in the province.
The community-led clinic model includes providers who are members of the LGBTQI community or have received gender sensitivity and anti-discrimination training. Clinics like these provide a stigma-free environment for LGBTQI people to openly discuss their health concerns. The model also provides the flexibility to book an appointment with a provider, which is not currently feasible with public health facilities across the country. People seeking services at public health facilities only receive an appointment ticket upon their arrival and then must wait to be seen by clinic staff. The inability to book appointments in advance, high demand for services, and high client load at public facilities leads to lengthy wait times for most services.
Community-led PrEP clinic launch
After several months of collaboration with EpiC Vietnam, the Provincial Department of Health, and the Provincial Center for Disease Control, Tay Ninh Pride opened the Tay Ninh Pride Pharmacy and Clinic on May 5, 2022. One hundred community members from Tay Ninh Province and nearby regions attended the event. It provided an opportunity to inform the public, including the LGBTQI community, about the clinic’s offerings, which include judgement-free options to access PrEP services. In addition to PrEP services, the clinic offers quick HIV testing, gender-based violence screening, and sample collection for hepatitis B and C, kidney function, and sexually transmitted infection (STI) testing. Located in a popular gathering spot for members of the LGBTQI community, the clinic is designed and decorated to be welcoming. The clinic is also associated with local laboratories to provide fast and convenient service for test results. In its first two months of operation, Tay Ninh Pride Pharmacy and Clinic successfully enrolled 35 clients for PrEP — 30 new clients and five clients that transferred from other clinics. From May to September 2022, Tay Ninh Pride expects to enroll at least 60 people on PrEP and deliver HIV testing services to 120 clients.
Acting U.S. Consul General Robert Greenan applauded Tay Ninh Pride’s accomplishments and emphasized that it serves “as an example to its peers in Vietnam and around the world.” Similarly, Dr. Nguyen Van Cuong, deputy director of the Tay Ninh Department of Health, underscored that Tay Ninh Pride and other community partners play a crucial role in identifying those at risk of HIV and connecting them with appropriate HIV services.