Agence France Presse (10.14.03) - Monday, October 20, 2003
UN and international health experts warned on Oct. 13 that
Vietnam has a serious, fast-growing HIV/AIDS epidemic, and
they asked the government to take a more liberal approach to
control it. Particularly, they urged that Vietnam lessen the
stigma and discrimination against HIV-infected people, ensure
their access to health care, and improve testing and
"This is a late epidemic," said Mary Kamb, CDC's director in
Vietnam. "The country has been spared HIV for many years and
so in many ways the things Vietnam is experiencing now are
quite similar to what was experienced in North America, Europe
and many parts of the world like sub-Saharan Africa 20 years
ago. The challenge for Vietnam is to learn from the lessons
that these other countries have had or may be able to offer."
Ministry of Health figures show that since the first HIV case
was reported in December 1990, 71,530 people have contracted
the virus. Reported cases are increasing at roughly 1,300 per
month, according to Nancy Fee, country coordinator for UNAIDS.
True numbers could be much higher than official figures, with
some estimates putting the number between 160,000-300,002
Injection drug users account for about 60 percent of Vietnam's
HIV cases, but that is partly because they are automatically
tested when they are arrested and put into rehabilitation
camps, Fee said. Repeat IDU offenders go to detention or
detoxification centers for 24 months. Prostitutes go to
similar camps for three- to nine-month sentences.
HIV is spreading rapidly into Vietnam's general population.
The state-controlled media downplays this fact, blaming HIV on
drug users and prostitutes, a "social evils" approach that the
UN, Western governments and international AIDS organizations
are trying to convince Vietnam to abandon.