Efforts To Curb HIV Among Drug Users in Vietnam Show Success, Still Face Challenges
The Vietnamese government's efforts to increase access to HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment programs among injection drug users are showing success, the Wall Street Journal reports. According to the Journal, the country is attempting to bolster public education and aid efforts targeted at high-risk groups, including IDUs. For example, the Journal reports that the success of six outpatient methadone treatment clinics -- which opened in April 2008 and can treat about 250 people annually -- has prompted the government to make plans to open six additional clinics. In addition, more than 11,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in Vietnam are receiving no-cost antiretroviral drugs through a government program that receives support from the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, according to the Journal.
The Journal reports that the efforts have "eased medical worries and lifted some of the stigma surrounding the disease." Nguyen To Nhu of Family Health International said the government's efforts are "really a breakthrough step on drug treatment in Vietnam, aiming to reduce HIV transmission among heroin-injecting users." However, stigmatization and criminalization of drug use continue to pose challenges, and the government requires its employees to report active drug users, the Journal reports. Jean-Marc Olive, the country's World Health Organization representative, said that these requirements can lead to negative attitudes among health care workers toward IDUs and prevent drug users from participating in treatment services.
According to the Journal, officials with PEPFAR hope to develop initiatives in Vietnam -- the only PEPFAR focus country outside Africa and the Caribbean -- that could be used in other countries where the primary method of HIV transmission is injection drug use (Vo, Wall Street Journal, 12/26/08).