Addiction Treatment
Peer group helps prevent HIV infection
Peer group helps prevent HIV infection

Que Phong, a mountainous border district of Nghe An province, is a hot spot for drug addiction and HIV/AIDS infection. To join the local authorities’ effort to prevent the spreading of HIV infection in the community, Sao Va peer group has provided considerable help to reduce the rate of HIV infection in the community.

The members of the Sao Va peer group travel hundreds of kilometers every day to communicate and encourage HIV/AIDS infected people and those at risk of HIV/AIDS infection to integrate into the community and take necessary preventive measures. 

30-year-old LVT in Dong Van commune, Que Phong district, became addicted to drugs when he was 19 years old. After using drugs for 5 years, he went to Dong Nai to work. Recently, realizing that his health was deteriorating with symptoms like coughing, breathing difficulty, and being unable to eat and drink, he returned home with high anxiety.

After being discovered by the Sao Vao group and undergoing a health examination, LVT was diagnosed with both HIV and tuberculosis, and underwent treatment. Now LVT’s health has improved and he can travel around by motorbike.

Photo: Sao Va group is preparing to deliver items to support HIV/ AIDS carriers

The Sao Va peer group was established in 2021 to help HIV carriers gain access to treatment, improve their health, and integrate into the community. Although the working conditions are difficult and travel is difficult in the unfavorable terrain, the group’s members are still ready to go to HIV hot spots with the motto “If you’re HIV infected, I will be there to support you in every situation.”

Lo Thanh Nhat, a member of Sao Va group, starts his day early and travels to villages in Que Phong district by motorbike. He then returns home very late.

Nhat recalled his days when he was a drug addict himself, and was infected with HIV/AIDS. He underwent a time of despair when he received experienced from other people. But life returned when he started using Methadone and taking ARV regularly to maintain his health. With a desire to reintegrate into the community,

Nhat joined the Sao Va peer group, helping people with HIV. Every time he manages to encourage a person to be tested and sent for treatment at Que Phong District Medical Center, Nhat feels happier, because his work helps reduce the death rate due to HIV infection.

Nhat said “Meeting only one high-risk person is not effective. It’s better to spread communication and provide direction to them and ask them to give more information about others at risk of HIV/AIDS that they know.”

Photo: Sao Va group communicates about HIV and tuberculosis

Most members of the Sao Va group used to be drug addicts and got infected with HIV, thus they understand and sympathize with those in the same situation. They encourage HIV-infected people to use medicine and to communicate and they are given free condoms.

Lo Thi Loan and Ngan Van Un are members of Sao Va.

 “When I was in a bad situation, I got to know a member of the Sao Va group. She provided information and encouraged me a lot to take medicine and get better. With my experience I joined Sao Va to help others.”

“I used to be a drug addict and had to use Methadone treatment. I use my story as an example to make HIV-infected people understand and use Methadone for their treatment. I hope that our stories will increase communication about this treatment method.”

Lang Chung Hien, from Que Phong district’s medical clinic, is the head of the Sao Va group. He said “We’re working in the Southwest and Northwest areas of Que Phong district, and hope to reach more areas. The drug hot spots have been wiped out but there are still drug addicts. We provide care to HIV/AIDS carriers, people at high risk of HIV infection, and their families.”

The Sao Va group is also supported by the Center for Supporting Community Development Initiatives (SCDI) to work more efficiently.

Nguyen Thi Duyen in charge of SCDI projects said “Building a network like this is very difficult and keeping it in operation is even more difficult. In Que Phong district, apart from the “Global Fund for HIV Prevention” project, another project, the “Global Fund for Tuberculosis Prevention and Protecting the Future” will also be implemented.”


Kim Thanh