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

    Vietnam Urges US to Lift Lethal Weapons Ban Amid S. China Sea Tensions

    US president’s upcoming visit to Vietnam underscores strength of relationship, and lifting embargo would reflect that trust, ambassador says

    Are US Schools Turning a Blind Eye to Radical Qatari Preachers?

    Parade of radical Islamist clerics using mosque at Qatar’s Education City draws mounting criticism for American universities that maintain satellite branches there

    Why Islamic State Is Down But Not Out

    Despite loss of territory, group’s ferocious attacks over past three months seen as testimony to its continued durability and resourcefulness

    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.
    Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroadi
    X
    May 02, 2016 1:36 PM
    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With the conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, between the rebel PKK and the Turkish state, many Kurds are trying to escape the turmoil by focusing on the success of their football team Amedspor in Diyarbakir. The club is increasingly becoming a symbol for Kurds, not only in Diyarbakir but beyond. Dorian Jones reports from southeast Turkey.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora