About 0.59% of Vietnamese Fishery Workers are HIV-Positive, Prevalence Could Rise by 2013, Survey Says
An estimated 33,000 of the total 5.5 million workers in Vietnam's fishery sector, or about 0.59%, were living with HIV in 2008, according to a survey released Tuesday by Vietnam's fishery program, VNA/VOV News reports (VNA/VOV News, 5/27). The report also predicted that the number of HIV-positive people in Vietnam's fishery sector could rise to 58,000 by 2013. According to a second survey, conducted simultaneously, a lack of knowledge about the disease has contributed to the fishery sector's relatively high HIV prevalence. Vietnam's Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development as part of its Strengthening of Fisheries Administration conducted the survey with support from the Danish International Development Agency.
For the first survey, researchers selected five provinces that were geographically and occupationally representative of the fishery industry. They surveyed 2,350 volunteers from four fishery trades: exploitation, processing, cultivation and provision. Fourteen of the survey participants disclosed that they had tested positive for HIV. Researchers then applied the Means of Transmission Model to estimate that about 0.59% of the country's fishery workers are HIV-positive. Do Thanh Nam, who led the survey, said the industry's "alarming" HIV rates are "caused by a lack of attention on HIV/AIDS risk among fishery workers" (VietNamNet Bridge, 5/27). Do also said that the survey might provide only a "snapshot" of the sector's HIV prevalence (VNA/VOV News, 5/27).
For the second survey, STOFA researchers surveyed 3,400 participants from nine provinces and found that many lacked sufficient knowledge about HIV. About 14.4% of survey respondents mistakenly believed HIV could be transmitted through mosquitoes or sharing tools; about 6.4% believed that hugging or kissing could transmit the virus; and about 15.8% believed having unprotected sex with commercial sex workers carried no risk of contracting HIV. In addition, 17.3% of male fishery workers reported using condoms with commercial sex workers. Le Thi Mong Phuong, who led the second survey, said that fishery workers often receive inadequate and unsystematic information about the disease. "Most of them learn about HIV/AIDS from television or radio, but rarely and irregularly," she said. Furthermore, many fishery workers reported spending long periods of time away from home, with 67% of 817 workers reporting absences of more than seven months per year and 21% reporting absences of four to six months per year.
Vu Van Tam, deputy minister for agriculture and rural development, said that his ministry will use the results of the survey to develop HIV prevention and control strategies for the industry. Peter Lysholt Hansen, Danish ambassador to Vietnam, added that HIV/AIDS could jeopardize the recent growth in Vietnam's agricultural sector because the disease poses high treatment costs for families, as well as costs from a weakened labor force. The surveys recommended that Vietnam address HIV/AIDS among fishery workers by strengthening a communications campaign and launching a program to provide condoms for high-risk groups (VietNamNet Bridge, 5/27).