Vietnam in context

With an estimated population of nearly 96 million, Vietnam is located in Southeast Asia bordering Cambodia, Laos and China. Vietnam’s HIV epidemic has been stabilised since its peak in 2000, but HIV/AIDS remains – as the highest disease burden among communicable diseases – a public health threat. There have been 11,000 new infections and nearly 8,000 AIDS-related deaths reported over the course of 2016.

According to the latest UNAIDS estimates, there is an increased proportion of new HIV infections among certain key populations, specifically among female sex workers and people who inject drugs (PWID), and their intimate partners. Although it is difficult to indicate, rough estimations have been made by UNAIDS on the numbers of PWID in Vietnam, which were around 271,000 individuals in 2016. Of these estimated numbers of PWID, 11% have been tested positive for HIV infection.

Furthermore, it is believed that there are around 72,000 sex workers in Vietnam – with no distinction being made between male and female sex workers. The HIV rates among the sex workers are estimated to be around 3%. It is unknown as to what the overlap is between the group of sex workers and the people who report that they inject drugs. Drawing from lessons from other countries, these two key populations are intertwined. In addition, for sex workers who use drugs by other means than injection, risky behaviours are also considerably more common.

Amphetamine-Type-Stimulants (ATS) – a slightly confusing container term that includes meth – are found to be the second most popular drug in Vietnam. 

However, the available services for drug users in Vietnam target injection heroin users and neglect people who use stimulant drugs. Our current assessment will help us to find our whether people who use meth in Vietnam face unnecessary health risks that can be reduced via harm reduction services.

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Country Manager for Vietnam: Nick Veldwijk

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