AIDS Spreads as Vietnam Targets "Social Ills"
November 26, 2002
Vietnam's government estimates there are 107,000 HIV cases -- local AIDS workers say the figure is at least 200,000 -- in this country of 78 million, and concedes the number will double by 2005. The government contends the epidemic's chief source is heterosexual sex, and points to the nation's estimated 40,000 prostitutes. But AIDS workers say that up to 70 percent of those infected are drug users, addicted to readily available heroin and methamphetamines. Regardless of the epidemic's source, AIDS workers say Hanoi's policy of arresting sex workers and drug users under the guise of social rehabilitation only makes the problem worse.Adapted from:
Vietnam UNAIDS Program Advisor Lauren Zessler and other non-governmental agency officials have urged the government to integrate the state rehabilitation centers into a broader campaign that includes AIDS education, condom distribution, needle exchange and other forms of prevention. So far, their recommendations have been to little avail.
Vietnam spends just $3 million a year on AIDS programs and has about 100 health centers handling HIV/AIDS patients. Even the rehab centers receive only a "meager amount" of funding, according to Thomas Kane, director of Family Health International. An FHI survey found 39 percent of truck drivers in the port city of Can Tho and 20 percent of migrant workers in the port city of Hai Phuong said they had slept with a prostitute in the past year. Chris Harick, special program director for the Christian relief agency World Vision, is particularly concerned about migrant workers and truck drivers who have sex with prostitutes and then pass the disease on to their wives.
From 1997 to 1999, Hanoi spent nothing on condom distribution, according to UNAIDS. But in 1999, the state produced 104 million condoms; most were marketed to married couples. The Population Council, FHI, World Vision and other international organizations have been distributing informational pamphlets and condoms through taxis drivers, shoeshine boys and barbers, with the help of local officials.
San Francisco Chronicle
11.24.02; Ben Schnayerson
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.