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

Video British Fighters on Frontline of ISIS Information War

It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for Islamic State alongside other foreign jihadists More

Pakistan's Political Turmoil Again Shines Spotlight on Military

Thousands of protesters calling for PM Sharif to step down continue protests in front of parliament, as critics fear political impasse could spur another military coup More

Photogallery Ebola Quarantines Spark Anxiety in Liberian Capital

Food prices rise sharply as residents attempting purchases clash with security forces, leaving one person dead 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.
Native Bees May Help Save Cropsi
X
Deborah Block
August 22, 2014 12:23 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video Native Bees May Help Save Crops

U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video US Defense Officials Plan for Long-Term Strategy to Contain Islamic State

U.S. defense officials say American air strikes in Iraq have helped deter Islamic State militants for the time being, but that a broad international effort is needed to defeat the extremists permanently. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned Thursday that the group formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, is better organized, and financially and militarily stronger than any other known terrorist group. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Drug-Resistant Malaria Spreads in Southeast Asia

On Thailand’s border with Myanmar, also known as Burma, a malaria research and treatment clinic is stepping up efforts to eliminate a drug-resistant form of the parasite - before it spreads abroad. Steve Sandford reports from Mae Sot, Thailand.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid