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

    Escalation of Media Crackdown in Turkey Heightens Concerns

    Critics see 'a new dark age' as arrests of journalists, closures of media outlets by Erdogan government mount

    Russia Boasts of Troop Buildup on Flank, Draws Flak

    Russian military moves counter to efforts to de-escalate tensions, State Department says

    Video Iraqis Primed to March on Mosul, Foreign Minister Says

    Iraqi FM Ibrahim al-Jaafari tells VOA the campaign will meet optimistic expectations, even though US officials remain cautious

    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.
    Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Processi
    X
    Katherine Gypson
    July 27, 2016 6:21 PM
    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora