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Vietnam Estimates 165,000 with HIV by Year End

November 7, 2000
HANOI (Reuters) - The deputy head of Vietnam's national AIDS committee estimated on Tuesday the country would have 140,000 to 165,000 people infected with HIV by the end of this year.

"The situation with HIV is serious and is getting more and more serious," Nguyen Chung A, vice chairman of the National Committee for HIV/AIDS Prevention, told a news conference.

He said a total 26,333 cases of HIV infection had been detected while 4,305 people had developed AIDS. He said 2,218 had died. According to official data, the total number of detected HIV infections was 17,130 last year.

Vietnam's efforts in fighting the epidemic had shown some success as experts had predicted in 1993 that the number of HIV carriers would jump to 570,000 by the end of 2000, according to the vice chairman.

But the battle to control the disease has encountered difficulties in a country where sexual matters are rarely discussed in public and up to 90% of drug addicts return to their habits after leaving rehabilitation centers.

Vietnam, with a population estimated at 79 million, has a thriving prostitution industry and a growing drug problem.

In the latest anti-AIDS campaign launched this year, Vietnam targeted men, as their behavior made them more vulnerable to the epidemic, said committee official Chu Quoc An.

He said 80% to 89% of detected HIV carriers in Vietnam were men. One problem is inadequate production of condoms, which results in the smuggling of low quality ones from China. This may increase the risk of infection, according to the vice chairman.

He estimated the current production shortfall at around 80 million condoms a year.

Official media has previously put demand for condoms in Vietnam at 187 million a year. It has predicted a shortfall of 119 million in 2002 when the demand is expected to reach 269 million.