Vietnam has fewer per capita cases of HIV than the United States. But what it does have in abundance are drug users who inject, and HIV is spreading exponentially in this group. The implications are serious not just for Vietnam but also for its neighbour, China.
In this article, Jon Cohen looks at how Doan Ngu of the Hanoi-based National AIDS Standing Bureau and an international team of researchers have devised a novel way of tackling the problem. The project, dubbed the Cross-Border HIV Prevention Intervention Project, aims to slow the spread of HIV in Vietnam’s Lang Son Province, and across the border in China's Guangxi Province by using peer educators and needle exchange. Often users themselves, educators offer a choice of vouchers or new needles in the exchange.
And it is working. Aside from the mountains of used needles collected and burnt, preliminary data show that HIV has not increased in Lang Son in more than a year. Ngu and his team realise, however, that this is just a start: policy makers in China and Vietnam still regard drug addiction as a social evil.
Reference: Science 301, 1657 (2003)