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.
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Algerians Vote in Presidential Election

There were few media reports of protests and clashes around the country, but so far no significant violence More

Sharks More Evolved than Previously Thought

The discovery could “profoundly affect our understanding of evolutionary history” More

Pakistan Military Asked to Protect Polio Workers

Request comes as authorities say a Taliban ban on vaccinations in 2012 and deadly attacks on anti-polio teams have prevented thousands of children from getting inoculated 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.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid