News / Asia

Wider Availability of Methadone Helps Curb HIV in Vietnam

A health worker collects blood from a patient at an HIV/AIDS consulting centre while U.S. Health Secretary Mike Leavitt visits the centre in Vietnam's northern Hai Phong City, 92 km east of Hanoi October 15, 2005.
A health worker collects blood from a patient at an HIV/AIDS consulting centre while U.S. Health Secretary Mike Leavitt visits the centre in Vietnam's northern Hai Phong City, 92 km east of Hanoi October 15, 2005.
Marianne Brown
— Treatment for intravenous drug users in Vietnam remains a very sensitive subject, but the expansion of methadone treatment has been welcomed by HIV clinicians.

In 2002 international donors warned that rapidly rising numbers of HIV/AIDS cases could threaten Vietnam’s economic development. A decade later aid groups are praising the country for expanding harm reduction policies, at least in the availability of methadone.

By the end of 2011 there were more than 170,000 registered drug users in Vietnam, 85 percent of them addicted to heroin. Drug use and sex work are categorized as “social evils” and are among the three groups most vulnerable to catching HIV. The third is men who have sex with men.

AIDS patient Pham Huu Khoi lays in his bed at the Mai Hoa Center for HIV and AIDS in An Nhon villages, northwest of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, Oct, 10, 2009.
AIDS patient Pham Huu Khoi lays in his bed at the Mai Hoa Center for HIV and AIDS in An Nhon villages, northwest of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, Oct, 10, 2009.

Until a few years ago the only option for many local authorities to deal with drug users and sex workers was to segregate them from society in controversial rehabilitation centers. The centers met with international condemnation last year after a report last year by Human Rights Watch accused them of forced labor. Relapse rates are high and some experts have said the money used to fund the centers would be better spent on public health.

However, since 2008 there has been another solution, methadone maintenance treatment, welcomed by some as a cheaper and more effective way of dealing with heroin addiction.
 
Do Duy Cuong, head of the HIV outpatient unit at Bach Mai hospital, says methadone treatment, along with distribution of condoms and clean syringes, can make a huge difference in preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS.

Taken daily in liquid form, methadone eases symptoms of heroin withdrawal and helps stop the spread of HIV caused by the use of dirty needles. Cuong says it also helps reduce crime because people do not need to steal to buy heroin.

Since 2008, a U.S. program called the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR, has built 13 methadone clinics across Vietnam. By 2015, the Vietnamese government plans to have 30 such clinics, reaching 80,000 of the country’s drug users. At the moment the clinics now treat nearly 10,000 people.

Increased access to methadone treatment is overdue, says Thi Van Anh, deputy head of infectious diseases at Hai Phong Medical University.

“I think we need to expand more because it doesn’t meet the needs of the people who are in need because we still have a lot of IDU (injecting drug users) who still cannot approach methadone treatment." She thinks methadone treatment should be integrated into the rehabilitation centers.

Many medical staff who treat HIV/AIDS patients do not provide recommendations for support of drug or alcohol addicts.

However, a new website set up with assistance from the U.S. embassy in Hanoi, the Centers for Disease Control and the Vietnamese government could help change that. The website provides training and advice in Vietnamese to clinicians across the country. Anyone can set up an account and access the site, but Van Anh says it will be particularly useful for medical staff.

“The number of doctors in Hai Phong who can read English is very few so their capacity to read English journal and capacity to analyze an article is very limited, but this website was made by national experts and it is in Vietnamese and available 24 hours," she said.

In a response to what some observers say is a combination of international pressure and a changing attitude within the government, last month the National Assembly passed an amendment to a law which will mean all sex workers detained in the centers, reported at around 900, will be released in July. Many hope the same will be said of drug users in the not-so-distant future.

You May Like

At Khmer Rouge Court, Long-Awaited Verdict Approaches

First phase of trial, which is coming to an end, has focused on forced exodus of Phnom Penh in 1975 - and now many are hopeful justice will be served More

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities More

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

Downing of Malaysian airliner, allegations of cross-border shelling move information war in war-torn country to a new level More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
July 31, 2014 8:13 PM
The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.

AppleAndroid