News / Asia

New Medical Society to Help Vietnam Fight AIDS

Members of the MSM (Men who have Sex with Men) Club wear red ribbons while they perform at a HIV/Aids awareness campaign in Hanoi, November 27, 2011.
Members of the MSM (Men who have Sex with Men) Club wear red ribbons while they perform at a HIV/Aids awareness campaign in Hanoi, November 27, 2011.
Marianne Brown
HANOI — As preparations start for the international conference AIDS 2012 later this month, in Washington, D.C., specialists in Vietnam are discussing ways to develop their own expertise as donor money becomes increasingly thin. 

Vietnam’s first case of HIV was recorded in Ho Chi Minh City in the early 1990s.  For the next 10 years, the most clinicians could do was provide diagnosis.  

But with help from international organizations, over time diagnosing the disease was no longer like giving a death sentence.

With training and resources from several global agencies, Vietnamese doctors started administering life-saving anti-retroviral drugs in 2005.  Clinicians say, after treatment, patients regain their health, can go back to work and lead a nearly normal life.

Vietnam HIV/AIDS, proactive approach

But as a middle-income country, Vietnam can no longer rely on external support.

"All activities for treatment in Vietnam get support from the projects supported by the outside.  But after some period, the projects finish.  So Vietnamese must stand on their own," said Dr. Nguyen Van Kinh, leading researcher on HIV/AIDS in Vietnam.

Kinh says that is part of the reason why health specialists in the country created the Vietnam Clinical HIV/AIDS Society, known as VCHAS.  It was set up with support from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control through the Harvard Medical School AIDS Initiative, as part of the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.

Kinh is president of the society, which held its first meeting last month.  It has been hailed as one of the first professional medical organizations in Vietnam of any kind, and Kinh has high hopes for its future.

"VCHAS has three functions.  First, networking and sharing experience and treatment.  Second, improve the capacity of the physician, technician working on HIV/AIDS treatment," explained Kinh.  "And, third, we try to share experience with other countries and international organizations."

Historically in Vietnam the HIV/AIDS epidemic has been concentrated among injecting drug users, but medical advisors say this is now shifting to sexual transmission.  An emerging key population at higher risk of catching the disease is men who have sex with men, where the rate of infection is nearly 17 percent.

Cultural taboos

Vietnam UNAIDS Director Eamonn Murphy says part of the challenge in reaching these men is cultural taboos, says Eamonn Murphy.

"In many parts of Vietnam they act like this does not exist.  I mean, come on, no country in the world does not have MSM [Men who have Sex with Men] ... I have been in provinces where they say, 'Oh, we do not have any of those, go to Ho Chi Minh City," he recalled.

Murphy says discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS is not uncommon.  People still move home because of the way their neighbors react to their HIV status.  And, children can be denied access to schools because their parents have HIV, even if the children themselves do not.

Stigma is also known to affect medical professionals working with HIV/AIDS patients.  Dr. Pham Thanh Thuy, a leading specialist in the disease from Hanoi’s Bach Mai hospital, says there is sometimes reluctance among public health professionals in other fields to treat HIV/AIDS patients because of a lack of knowledge.

But part of the work planned by VCHAS will be to provide training to other hospital departments so medical staff can understand more about the disease.

"With this training we get people to understand HIV.  It can help them to decrease the discrimination and it can help them to help us treat HIV-infected patients if they need care other than HIV treatment.  I mean care and treatment for non HIV-methods, the things [health issues] that anyone can have," stated Thuy.

As donors prepare to disengage, Vietnam has recognized that urgent action is needed to pay for treatment and prevention. The government has stepped up funding from its budget to pay for drugs necessary for treatment.  But that is not enough, according to UNAIDS’ Murphy.  

Reprioritzing resources

He says there needs to be major reprioritization of resources to fill the gap.  Part of that could come from scrapping the country’s controversial rehabilitation centers for drug users.

"These detention centers, huge white elephant, waste of money.  They do not achieve the outcomes that anyone is looking for," said Murphy. "Either in terms of either social order control or public health."

The centers met international condemnation after a report last year by Human Rights Watch accused them of forced labor.  Murphy says, although there are fewer drug users in the centers now, they still cost money and it would be better if the resources were used for public health.

He says the government recognizes there are more effective ways of dealing with heroin dependence and has set a target of 80,000 people on methadone by 2015, up from the current 10,000.

Founders are hopeful VCHAS will encourage medical professionals to feel proud of their hard work in a sector that is neither popular nor lucrative and will also generate home-grown research in Vietnam.

Dr. Thuy says Vietnam has come a long way in tackling discrimination, but there is still more to be done.  Although VCHAS is still very new, she hopes that the organization will help clinicians treat people who take part in so-called "social evils" as patients and provide treatment whenever and wherever they need it.

You May Like

Photogallery Americans Celebrate Thanksgiving With Feasts, Festivities

Holiday traditions include turkey dinners, 'turkey trots,' American-style football and New York parade with giant balloons More

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

With two years left in term, analysts say, president has less to lose by taking conversation on race further More

Video Italian Espresso Expands Into Space

When Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti headed for the ISS, her countrymen worried how she would survive six months drinking only instant coffee More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: david from: New York
July 04, 2012 10:15 PM
HIV does not define who you are or what type of person you are. HIV does not rob you of your desires, your goals, or your personality. 70 million are afflicted with STD in the U.S. alone and an estimated over 400 million worldwide. www.positivechats.com is a warm STD dating site for 680,000+ singles with hiv and other STDs. 100% anonymous.


by: Anonymous
July 04, 2012 10:03 PM
Communism itself is a fatal diseas, worse than HIV, kill that social evil first !

In Response

by: Anonymous
July 05, 2012 3:12 AM
not so sure what fatal disease is but communism has sth good to learn from

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
South Africa Sees Male Circumcision as Way to Reduce HIV Infectionsi
X
November 28, 2014 3:31 PM
South Africa remains plagued by AIDS despite massive government and NGO efforts on prevention and life-sustaining Anti-Retro-Viral programs. But the country has opened up another front to reduce new HIV infections: promoting circumcision. Emilie Iob reports for VOA News from a pioneering circumcision center in Orange Farm, Johannesburg.
Video

Video South Africa Sees Male Circumcision as Way to Reduce HIV Infections

South Africa remains plagued by AIDS despite massive government and NGO efforts on prevention and life-sustaining Anti-Retro-Viral programs. But the country has opened up another front to reduce new HIV infections: promoting circumcision. Emilie Iob reports for VOA News from a pioneering circumcision center in Orange Farm, Johannesburg.
Video

Video To Make A Living, Nairobi Street Vendors Face Legal Hurdles, Physical Violence

The Nairobi City Council has been accused of brutality in dealing with hawkers in the Central Business District - in order to stop them from illegally selling their wares on the streets. Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

Throughout the crisis in Ferguson, Missouri, President Barack Obama has urged calm, restraint and respect for the rule of law. But the events in Ferguson have prompted him to call — more openly than he has before — for profound changes to end the racism and distrust that he believes still exists between whites and blacks in the United States. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Online Magazine Gets Kids Discussing Big Questions

Teen culture in America is often criticized for being superficial. But an online magazine has been encouraging some teenagers to explore deeper issues, and rewarding their efforts. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky went to this year’s Kidspirit awards ceremony in New York.
Video

Video US Community Kicks Off Thanksgiving With Parade

Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States, a holiday whose roots go back to the country's earliest days as a British colony. One way Americans celebrate the occasion is with parades. Anush Avetisyan takes us to one such event on the day before Thanksgiving near Washington, where a community's diversity is on display. Joy Wagner narrates
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.

All About America

AppleAndroid