Vietnam's efforts to diminish HIV/AIDS spread

Harm reduction programmes have brought effective results to Vietnam's HIV/AIDS fight in recent years among the rapid spread of the epidemic.

Everyday, an average of 15,000 people in the world are infected by HIV. Every day, at least 50 Vietnamese people are detected to be HIV carriers.

The objectives of such programmes are to diminish the harm of drug use, prostitution, and other methods of transmission of the disease.

Vietnam launched its first harm reduction programme in 1993 with assistance from the World Health Organisation (WHO). The programme, which ran o­n a trial basis in District 1 of Ho Chi Minh City, and Dong Da and Hai Ba Trung Districts of Hanoi, aimed to test the effectiveness of interventional measures.

After three years, the programme showed positive changes in the fight against HIV/AIDS and the awareness of local authorities and communities about the disease. Especially, local intravenous drug addicts were the most informed of the danger of HIV spread through sharing injection needles and preventive measures to protect themselves and others. The first peer education groups were set up then.

The programme continued to expand to other HIV/AIDS hot-spots such as Ninh Binh and Lao Cai provinces in the north, and Binh Dinh province in the south, with the support from the German Government. It resulted in the slower spread of HIV/AIDS epidemic in these localities as compared to others.

Since 1998, harm reduction programmes have been carried out in many provinces and cities. A harm reduction project with help from the UN office o­n drug control was carried out in Hanoi, Hai Phong, Thai Nguyen and Lang Son provinces in the north and Nghe An in the central, and has shown effectiveness.

In 2003, the Vietnamese Government issued an instruction, mentioning harm reduction measures for the first time. o­ne year later, the national strategy o­n AIDS prevention by 2010 and towards 2020, which stressed the importance of supplying clean injection needles and condoms for intravenous drug addicts and prostitutes, was approved. The national strategy defined harm reduction as o­ne of the national programmes of action.

The Government has decided to earmark VND 105 billion in the 2006 National Budget for HIV/AIDS prevention.

In 2005, the country spent VND 10 billion out of the total VND 80 billion for fighting HIV/AIDS o­n providing anti-retroviral treatment and drugs to over 1,500 patients, increasing the total number of HIV-infected people receiving specific drugs to 6,000, or 10 percent of the total HIV/AIDS carriers in Vietnam.

The HIV/AIDS prevention networks from the central to grassroots levels have been improved step-by-step, and preventive measures like using clean needles and syringes and marketing condoms have proved to be effective in localities.

The HIV virus has recently tended to spread fast in the community, instead of being restricted to high-risk groups as in the past. By late September 2005, Vietnam had 101,291 people who had tested positive for HIV, including 16,528 with full-blown AIDS. So far, 9,554 people have died from the fatal disease.

According Nhandan