Vietnamese Government Issues Decree Allowing Punishment for HIV-Related Discrimination
The Vietnamese government on Monday announced it has passed a decree to allow the punishment of people who discriminate against HIV-positive individuals in the country, AFP/Yahoo! News reports. The decree -- which was issued on April 6 by Prime Minister Phan Van Khai -- allows the government to fine anyone who publicizes test results, names, addresses or photographs of HIV-positive people without their consent, as well as employers who fire HIV-positive employees or school employees that dismiss HIV-positive students. However, the decree does not specify the amount someone could be fined for such discrimination. Vietnam has been criticized for "tolerating the stigmatization" of HIV/AIDS patients, and U.N. agencies have "complained" that HIV-positive people face employment discrimination and other barriers to equality in the country, according to AFP/Yahoo! News (AFP/Yahoo! News, 4/25). The country's national HIV/AIDS strategy aims to reduce HIV prevalence, increase awareness about the disease, and change attitudes and behaviors toward the epidemic among the general population and policymakers. The government last week announced that in June it will begin a five-year, $38.5 million HIV/AIDS prevention program aimed at keeping HIV prevalence in the country below 0.3%, as part of a $35 million grant from the World Bank. According to Vietnam's Ministry of Health, approximately 245,000 people in the country were HIV-positive at the end of 2003, but international health experts have said that the number could increase to more than one million by 2010 (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 4/22).
Jackie Chan Visits Vietnam
Hong Kong actor Jackie Chan on Friday arrived in Vietnam for a four-day stay aimed at promoting HIV/AIDS awareness as a UNICEF and UNAIDS goodwill ambassador, the AP/USA Today reports. During his visit, Chan "stressed the importance" of curbing the discrimination and stigma attached to the disease, as well as the need for affordable antiretroviral treatment for HIV-positive individuals, according to the AP/USA Today (AP/USA Today, 4/25). "I need your help to keep on spreading a message: Say 'no' to discrimination and care for people infected with or affected by HIV/AIDS, especially children," Chan said at a press conference, appealing for organizations and individuals to take a more active role in fighting the disease. Chan said that family members of HIV-positive individuals need "greater care and support" from the community to help their sick relatives, protect themselves from the disease and continue to contribute to society, Xinhuanet reports (Xinhuanet, 4/25). "Jackie Chan's visit has been enormously popular," Anne Attard, officer in charge of UNICEF, who accompanied Chan on his visit, said, adding, "Clearly he is an important role model, for young and old alike, and his visit has done much to accelerate Vietnam's fight to help combat the disease" (UNAIDS/UNICEF release, 4/25).