Accelerating stimulant harm reduction in Vietnam

A centre of excellence in Vietnam where you can directly learn from harm reduction experts, go into the field to experience the Vietnamese context and go home with more skills to support people who use crystal methamphetamine. That is what Mainline wants to achieve in 2019 in collaboration with partners SCDI, 3 community based organisations (CBOs) and Open Society Foundation (OSF). 

In early April 2019, Mainliners Simon and Nick visited Hanoi, Vietnam to make a start on this new initiative. Nick started with assessing the existing technical capacity of the CBOs. The outcomes of the capacity assessment are positive; there is already a lot of knowledge present regarding methamphetamine, and local organisations have a good sense of the community they are working with. Because this area is still new, the staff members shared that they would need to pay more attention to practical harm reduction tips given to meth users on safe drug use.

So what came next? Simon provided a 3 day training, focusing especially on the practical harm reduction tips. The training opened with a session on what methamphetamine is as well as its added value: why might people continue to use methamphetamine when they have physical and mental health issues as a result of using it? This led nicely to an open discussion about the stigma and misconceptions surrounding meth, e.g. telling a regular meth user that they need to stop using might be a valid harm reduction tip – but is it practical?

The discussions stimulated participants such as Ariana’s thinking. ‘I knew about some of the harm reduction tips before, but I never considered that insisting that someone eat when they don’t want to might alienate them, for example. Now I know how to suggest alternative ways of getting nutrition’.

In six months from now, a follow up will be conducted to see how Ariana and the others have progressed with applying their new, practical interventions. The ambition is to, over the course of the year, gradually build a regional learning hub on harm reduction for people who use meth. To be continued!

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