August 29, 2006
At a recent one-day conference in Hanoi, the Vietnam representative of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime warned that "the twin epidemics of drugs and HIV should no longer be viewed only as a threat to the public security and public health of Vietnam. They must be viewed as potential threats to sustainable human development, the future development of the nation," said Narumi Yamada.
The mountainous region bordering Laos and Cambodia -- long a site of opium cultivation -- has seen a spike in heroin trafficking and addiction, officials said. "Unless proper actions are taken, it is predicted that in the next five to ten years, drug abuse and HIV will become serious and inevitable epidemics, endangering the development achievements of the highland communities," said Truong Vinh Trong, deputy prime minister.
According to the Ministry of Labor, Invalid and Social Affairs, in the late 1990s some 90 percent of drug users in the northwest region were opium smokers. After 1999, however, "most of the drug users turned to heroin use. The past year saw an increase in drug injection," said a ministry report. It noted that in three northern provinces, 80-90 percent of HIV cases are among drug users.