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

    In Britain, The Sun Still Doesn’t Shine

    Invoking Spitfires and Merlin, Leave voters insist country can be great again, following surprising 'Brexit' vote last week

    Double Wave of Suicide Bombings Puts Lebanon, Refugees on Edge

    Following suicide bombings in Christian town of Al-Qaa, on Lebanon's northeast border with Syria, fears of further bombings have risen

    US Senators Warned on Zika After Failing to Pass Funding

    Zika threats and challenges, as well as issues of contraception and vaccines, spelled out as lawmakers point fingers

    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.
    Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeasti
    X
    June 29, 2016 6:15 PM
    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeast

    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Either

    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video New US Ambassador to Somalia Faces Heavy Challenges

    The new U.S. envoy to Somalia, who was sworn into office Monday, will be the first American ambassador to that nation in 25 years. He will take up his post as Somalia faces a number of crucial issues, including insecurity, an upcoming election, and the potential closure of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. VOA’s Jill Craig asked Somalis living in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi how they feel about the U.S. finally installing a new ambassador.
    Video

    Video At National Zoo, Captivating Animal Sculptures Illustrate Tragedy of Ocean Pollution

    The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is home to about 1,800 animals, representing 300 species. But throughout the summer, visitors can also see other kinds of creatures there. They are larger-than-life animal sculptures that speak volumes about a global issue — the massive plastic pollution in our oceans. VOA's June Soh takes us to the zoo's special exhibit, called Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora