Viet Nam's Provincial Leaders Roll out New National HIV/AIDS Strategy

07 May 2004

Hai Duong - Hai Duong's leaders evidence a strong commitment to make the battle against HIV/AIDS a high priority in their development agenda as the Northern province seeks to implement the newly approved "National Strategy on HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control in Viet Nam up to 2010 with a Vision to 2020".

This commitment was confirmed today during the Forum on Leadership, which brought together leaders from the provincial Party, People’s Councils and People’s Committees as well as the Communist Party, National Assembly and Ministry of Health.

The Forum was organized by the project “Strengthening Capacity in Management, Policy Formulation and Coordination of HIV/AIDS activities in Viet Nam”, implemented by the Ministry of Health with support from the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the Government of Australia.

Approved by the Prime Minister in March 2004, the new Strategy is the first comprehensive strategic document on HIV/AIDS that Viet Nam has developed since the first HIV infection was detected in 1990.

The Strategy marks a significant advance in the battle against HIV/AIDS in Viet Nam,”said Jordan Ryan, UNDP Resident Representative, but he added, “Now is the time for everyone to get involved in a nationwide effort to halt the spread of HIV.”

Drafted with support from UNDP and other donors, the new Strategy recognizes that “HIV/AIDS seriously impacts the development of the economy, culture, order and the safety of the nation”. It calls for prevention and control of HIV/AIDS to be considered as a “central, urgent and long-term task that requires multi-sectorial responses and the mobilization of the whole society.”

Leadership and various aspects of the multi-sectoral approach emerged as key issues debated at the Hai Duong Forum. Ms Nguyen Thi Hoai Thu, Chairperson of the National Assembly’s Committee on Social Issues stressed the role of the National Assembly and People's Councils at all levels in HIV/AIDS prevention and care, mobilization and allocation of resources.

The Party’s Directive on HIV/AIDS prevention and care and the Party's viewpoint on HIV/AIDS harm reduction were presented by Mr. Pham Manh Hung, Vice Chairman of the Party Central Committee on Sciences and Education. Ministry of Health’s representatives highlighted the Strategy’s key issues including multi-sectoral approach in HIV/AIDS prevention and care.

Mr. Ryan stressed that strong leadership was the best way to beat HIV/AIDS: “It is encouraging to see Hai Duong’s leaders setting an example for their colleagues in 63 other cities/provinces by fully embracing the HIV/AIDS challenge. Leaders need to speak out to strengthen prevention and care efforts, and to ensure that those infected are a part of this response.”

Hai Duong is facing rising rate of HIV infections, attributed by the province in 80% cases to drug injection. As of 31 December 2003, Hai Duong reported 1,727 HIV positive persons, 569 people with AIDS and 207 deaths. Hai Duong’s location in the middle of the Ha Noi-Hai Phong-Quang Ninh triangle that tops the list of worst hit places of the country and its transportation links such as National Highways 5 and 18 help explain the province’s incidence of HIV/AIDS. Mobile populations including migrant workers are among the most exposed and risk passing the virus on to wider populations.

According to a recent UN report - Closing the Millennium Gaps - the evolution and pattern of HIV/AIDS in Viet Nam points to a potentially explosive challenge ahead that could also threaten socio-economic sustainability. While the officially reported infection rate may appear low at 0.28%, HIV/AIDS is spreading rapidly with reported infections so far this year heading towards a 25% growth rate for 2003.

All 64 provinces and urban areas are now reporting cases of HIV/AIDS, in contrast to only a few years ago when infections were largely confined to the major urban areas and a small number of border and tourist areas. Moreover, since 1999, over 40% of new infections have been reported in the 15-24 age group, well up from just over 10% in 1994.

The increasing number of pregnant women who are infected with HIV shows the disease is spreading into the general population, with potentially major repercussions for increased human suffering and a rising risk to socio-economic sustainability. The Report says that unless more broad based urgent actions are soon taken, Viet Nam will not reach the Millennium Development Goal 6, which calls for halting and then reversing the spread of HIV/AIDS by 2015.

Contact Information

Communications Unit, 9421495 (EXT: 159); Fax: (04) 942 2267;
or
Nguyen Phuong Mai (EXT: 150)