The William J. Clinton Foundation, a charitable organisation founded by the former US president, has agreed to help the Vietnamese government set up a national HIV/AIDS care plan. The foundation will initially provide ARVs for 1,000 children.

The Clinton Foundation has been able to secure lower prices for ARVs through a number of deals, such as one with Indian generics maker Cipla. In Vietnam, it is hoped that the cost of the life-saving treatment could fall to US$140 per patient per year. Currently, annual costs are roughly US$1,400, while imported ARVs cost more than US$8,000.

The Foundation recently embarked upon an initiative aiming to boost the number of children receiving paediatric ARVs in low-income countries. In China, for example, the organisation is aiming to increase the number of patients receiving treatment from 200 to 2000. As is the case in many countries, China does not manufacture and distribute paediatric ARVs, although it does provide the drugs free for adults.

HIV/AIDS is spreading aggressively in South East Asia, with the number of new infections in Vietnam doubling since 2000. Vietnam's government has pledged a strong response to the epidemic, and industry observers are concerned that the country may copy Thailand, which plans to compulsorily license and export multinational sector-manufactured ARVs.