Vietnam's efforts to control the spread of HIV are being hampered by government policies that still treat heroin use and prostitution as social evils in need of eradication, an independent review said Wednesday. Health education efforts among heroin users and prostitutes, who have by far the highest rate of HIV infection in Vietnam, were impeded by official and public prejudice towards them, said the review, supported by Australia and the United Nations Development Program. "The government should review and adjust its policy on condom use and clean needles for groups with high risk behaviors," said one of the report's co-authors, Professor Pham Bich San.
Condom sales of 40 million last year still amounted to just a third of the estimated need, said San, and women remained reluctant to carry them because of their association with Vietnam's large illegal sex industry.
"Condoms should not be seen as a dirty thing but our savior," said Vietnam's Women's Union representative Do Thi Thanh Nhan. The report said needle sharing among heroin users remained the cause of an estimated 60 percent of infections in Vietnam. But an increasing number of positive results from routine testing of army conscripts and pregnant women suggested the AIDS virus was beginning to spread into the general population. According to government data, just 46,334 cases of HIV infection had been recorded up to the end of last year. But because of the limited scope of testing, the real figure is believed to be far higher.
Back to other CDC news for April 3, 2002