United States Grants Up to $20 Million Over Five Years for HIV/AIDS Prevention Projects in Vietnam
The U.S. Agency for International Development will give Vietnam up to $20 million over the next five years for HIV/AIDS prevention efforts, the AP/Fresno Bee reports. The funding will go toward a program that helps reduce HIV infections among "high-risk" groups, such as sex workers and injection drug users. In addition, USAID will work with the Vietnamese Ministry of Health to help improve HIV/AIDS policies and reduce discrimination against HIV-positive people. AIDS groups say that it is difficult to reach people at high risk for HIV infection because the Vietnamese government has "portrayed AIDS as a 'social evil' akin to prostitution or drug use, thereby stigmatizing" HIV-positive people. Prostitution and illegal drug use are "stiffly punished" in the country. "We ... need to eliminate the confusion between HIV/AIDS and social evils. HIV is a virus, not an evil, and we need to separate the issue of social evils from HIV transmission if we are to win this battle," Raymond Burghardt, U.S. ambassador to Vietnam, said. Vietnam currently has a total of 52,434 recorded HIV cases, although health experts say that the true number could be more than twice as high (AP/Fresno Bee, 9/9).
Vietnamese Government Announces Condom Promotion Campaign
The Vietnamese government today announced a campaign that aims to increase condom use among sexually active young people by promoting condoms on college campuses and other venues, Agence France-Presse reports. The campaign, which will begin in October, is sponsored by Vietnam's Family Planning Association. The agency aims to sell 170 million condoms each year until 2005, Phan Song, director of the Family Planning Association, said. Song said that the marketing campaign will begin next month in the three largest universities in Hanoi, marking the first time that condoms will be "actively sold" on campus. Song noted that nearly 59% of HIV-positive Vietnamese are between the ages of 13 and 29. Agence France-Presse reports that while prostitution is "rife" in Vietnam, many Vietnamese men do not use condoms because of a lack of knowledge about HIV transmission and "embarrassment" over purchasing contraceptives. The Family Planning Association estimates that only one in 2,000 men use condoms while having sex with a sex worker (Agence France-Presse, 9/10).