Positive effort to reduce HIV/AIDS stigma

Viet Nam has seen a considerable increase over the last few years in the number of people living with HIV who have become actively involved in prevention, care and treatment activities, participants at a seminar in Ha Noi said on Monday.

Organised by the Viet Nam Women’s Union, UN Volunteers (UNV) and the Joint UN Programme o­n HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), the two-day workshop’s theme was Turning the Tide: Promotion of Greater Involvement of People Living with HIV, and Reduction of Stigma and Discrimination.

"Addressing stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV must be a priority for us all, and strong leadership is needed to achieve that," said Ha Thi Khiet, president of the Viet Nam Women’s Union who is also chairwoman of the National Committee for the Advancement of Women.

"Empowering and involving people living with HIV is o­ne of the crucial steps. There is so much that can be accomplished if we combine efforts and work together," she added.

The workshop brings people together from the region and Viet Nam to exchange experiences and discuss remaining challenges and strategies needed to implement the programme.

"People living with HIV have been making vital contributions to HIV prevention, treatment and care in Viet Nam, but we have not received sufficient recognition or support for this work," said Trinh Thi Thuy Ngan, deputy head of the White Dove self-help group and chair of the Greater Involvement of People Living with HIV Group (GIPA).

"We want to set up a mechanism owned and managed by people living with HIV themselves, enabling us to share a common voice in Viet Nam and access resources from the national government and the international community. This workshop and the support from the Women’s Union is an important step forwards in helping us achieve these goals," she added.

The workshop is an activity of the GIPA Project launched in late 2006 by the Viet Nam Women’s Union in four provinces, with support from UNV and UNAIDS.

"There is still a lot of work to be done to secure a place at the table for people living with HIV, and to tailor responses that really work. We also need to create more supportive social and legal conditions for people living with HIV and see how best we can ensure that their involvement is a reality at all levels in the country," said Eamonn Murphy, UNAIDS country director.

During the seminar, chairwoman Khiet and other Government officials were expected to also pay a visit to Dong Da Hospital in Ha Noi to talk to HIV-infected patients who are providing referral, counseling and care for other HIV patients.