Vietnamese President Calls on Public To Reduce Stigma Surrounding HIV/AIDS
Vietnamese President Tran Duc Luong on Wednesday visited with HIV/AIDS patients at Bach Mai Hospital in Hanoi, Vietnam, in an attempt to reduce the stigma surrounding the disease and show that the country's leaders are committed to fighting it, the AP/Long Island Newsday reports (AP/Long Island Newsday, 8/25). "The fight against HIV/AIDS must be considered our long-term and key task," Luong said, adding, "People living with HIV/AIDS should enjoy equal opportunities as ordinary citizens. We should not discriminate against them." Although 80,000 people have been diagnosed with HIV in Vietnam, the government estimates that more than 215,000 people in the country are HIV-positive. Jordan Ryan, Vietnam representative of the United Nations Development Programme, said that Luong's visit "gives a strong and clear message to the nation and it demonstrates visible commitment of the Vietnamese leadership in the fight against HIV/AIDS" (Agence France-Presse, 8/25). Luong called on people to treat HIV/AIDS as a disease, not as a "social evil," according to Reuters (Reuters, 8/25). The term "social evil" is used by the communist government to describe some illegal activities, such as gambling, drug use and commercial sex work, BBC News reports (BBC News, 8/25).
Luong also called on developed countries and international organizations to provide more financial support to developing countries in the fight against HIV/AIDS, the Vietnam News Agency reports (Vietnam News Agency, 8/25). Luong added that the country's budget for HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention is insufficient, according to Reuters (Reuters, 8/25). President Bush in June added Vietnam to the list of countries eligible for funding under the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. Vietnam is the only country outside of Africa and the Caribbean eligible for funds under the five-year, $15 billion plan. Some analysts predict that the number of HIV-positive people in Vietnam could reach one million by 2010. Senior administration officials said that "Vietnam is a place where the American people's money can really make a tremendous impact because it is on the brink of a very explosive epidemic" (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/21).