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.
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 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.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid