Vietnam Fails to Prevent Spread of HIV Among Sex Workers

The HIV rate among sex workers in Vietnam's major cities remains stubbornly high, despite efforts to curb infections.

A Labor Ministry report presented at a UN- and government-sponsored conference in Hanoi on April 28 said approximately 9.3 percent of sex workers across Vietnam are HIV-infected. But in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh, and Hai Phong, the rates jump to 20 percent, 16 percent, and 23 percent, respectively.

Ministry spokesperson Nguyen Trong Dam told the state-run newspaper Viet Nam News that a lack of coordination among various government agencies working on HIV/AIDS prevention is part of the problem. Another factor is that too many people are still not using condoms, he said.

According to the report, condoms are not easily accessible in hotels, and cultural barriers prevent both sex workers and clients from obtaining them.

Duong Van Dat of the UN Population Fund noted that few Vietnamese sex workers have access to HIV/AIDS prevention tools such as free condoms or STD treatment. Neighboring Cambodia has seen a dramatic drop in cases of HIV and other STDs; some 80 percent of sex workers there report condom use, Dat said.