Vietnam’s HIV/AIDS epidemic is concentrated primarily among injecting drug users, women in prostitution and men who have sex with men. Outreach workers regularly walk into neighborhoods in Hai Phong City with the hope of reaching these at-risk populations with information about HIV/AIDS and voluntary counseling and testing. The outreach workers encourage individuals to seek confidential HIV counseling and testing at the Community Health Counseling Center in Hai Phong City.
The Community Health Counseling Center is one of many HIV counseling and testing sites operated by the Vietnamese Ministry of Health with support from PEPFAR. Counseling and testing services in Vietnam have expanded rapidly, and are currently located in the 40 provinces with the highest HIV prevalence. These sites reach out to the country’s most stigmatized individuals by offering flexible hours and confidential services free of charge.
The counseling and testing program is having a positive impact. “This intervention helps HIV-negative people maintain their negative status, assists HIV-infected people to avoid HIV transmission to others and to live healthy lives, and links infected people to care and treatment services,” said Huynh Thi Nhan, a counselor at a Ministry of Health site in Can Tho City.
Launched at the end of May 2006, a new communications campaign will further expand the reach of the program. The campaign targets potential clients with information about confidential HIV counseling and testing and the locations of service sites. Billboards and posters encourage clients to talk with counselors to discuss feelings of fear and concern and to answer questions related to HIV/AIDS. The campaign also emphasizes the importance of testing as a crucial step in improving overall health and quality of life.