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Press conference on the project “Saving the Future – Innovative Strategies to Control HIV Infection among Young people who Use Drugs in Vietnam”

Ngày 24 tháng 10 năm 2018

In the occasion of the 1st visit to Vietnam by French President Francois Hollande, an agreement on cooperation in the field of Medicine has been signed between SCDI and Expertise France (French Agency for international technical expertise), with regards to the project “Saving the Future – Innovative Strategies to Control HIV Infection among Young people who Use Drugs in Vietnam” – proposed and implemented by SCDI, funded by Expertise France via 5% Initiative program. Regarding this event, on September 5th, a press conference has been held in SCDI office in order to welcome guests from Expertise France and broadly present the project to communities. 


The participants were Mr. Sébastien Mosneron Dupin, General director of Expertise France; Prof. Françoise Barré-Sinoussi, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for discovery of HIV; Dr. Nghiêm Vũ Khải, Vice president of Vietnam Union of Science and Technology associations (VUSTA), member of the 14th National Assembly; Dr. Khuất Thị Hải Oanh, SCDI Executive Director and Mr. Phạm Thành Công, head of “Bulletpoint” – a community-based treatment group.

HIV infection increases among adolescents but current effective interventions stay limited
HIV infection among young people is indeed a worldwide concern. According to Professor Françoise Barré-Sinoussi, HIV in global scale has declined among other age group, but is increasing among teenagers. However, the effectiveness of intervention efforts for this age group is very limited. "Access  to services  for prevention, support and  treatment  is  particularly  problematic  for  young  people  in  key  populations”. Still, “in  addition  to  other  barriers,  essential services  are  not  always  well  suited  to  the  needs  and  life  conditions of these populations, and their effectiveness is often lower than for other groups".

Vietnam is facing a similar challenge. Young people born in the market economy and  grown  up  in  the  digital  age  –  are  culturally  and  socially  different from the older generation. They are using different types of drugs and use them differently – smoking crystal methamphetamine (known as “ice”) instead of injecting heroin. They are also at high risk of getting HIV, through unsafe sexual practices. According to Mr. Pham Thanh Cong, head of CBO Bulletpoint, low cost and ease of use are the main reasons for crystal meth to affect number of people, mainly adolescents and young adults who engage with unhealthy/reckless and risky behaviors. Moreover, truck and taxi drivers are also affected, causing the rate of drug addiction to increase in younger ages, mainly in the 15-24 age group. 

 

The use of drugs among other key populations such as men who have sex with men and sex workers elevates the risks of infection and transmission. Programs that are very effective in preventing HIV among people who inject heroin through needle distribution and oral substitution therapy –  turn out  to be not relevant to young people who smoke “ice”. Programs that address sexual transmission of HIV among sex workers and men who have sex with men through condom promotion have limited impacts once people are under the stimulant effects of methamphetamine. 

Dr. Khuat Thi Hai Oanh, points out the critical gap in the current intervention programs for young drug users: “The ongoing projects that address HIV problem among people who use drugs are all focused on people who inject heroin, in which only around 10% of the clients are under 25 years old”. 
 

Prof. Françoise Barré-Sinoussi shared her observations about young people using drugs issue in France
Photo credit: SCDI

 

“Project ‘Saving  the Future’  is the first major project  that  focuses on preventing HIV among  young people who use drugs in Vietnam” thus confirmed Dr. Oanh, and "SCDI is the first organization that proposed and launched a specific project focusing on young drug users in Southeast Asia" said Expertise France representatives.

Project implementation in 8 provinces/cities, providing service to at least 8,000 young people affected
Starting from November 2016, the project will launch a ground research to understand the profile of young people who use drugs (their backgrounds, social connections, the effects produced by drugs, and the behaviors that may put them at risks of HIV). This knowledge will inform the development of intervention strategies. In early 2017, the project will develop intervention strategies, based on inputs from research results. The  project will provide funding and technical assistance to community-based organizations of key populations that could initiate and implement intervention programs that deem effective to young people who use drugs in their locality.  

It is planned that the project will work with networks of key populations, 20 community-based organizations in 8 provinces to reach at least 8,000  young people who use drugs with services that help them prevent HIV infection.  

Dr. Nghiem Vu Khai – Vice President of VUSTA said: “This is a complement to a project supported by the Global Fund to address HIV among key  populations that is being managed by VUSTA in 15 provinces. Project  ‘Saving the Future’ will  focus on young people who use drugs, most of whom  do not inject, who have not been reached by the ongoing project”. According to him, “The importance of  this Project goes beyond controlling HIV  infection. Drug use among young people is of great  concern  to the Party, the National Assembly, the Government as well as society as a whole since  it affects our economic, society, health and  the next generation. We hope that this Project – besides preventing HIV infection – contributes  to  reduce  the harms associated with drugs use and to increase social integration of the young people.”

Dr. Khuat Thi Hai Oanh concluded, SCDI should be an active coordinator with national and local institutions in order to better implement specific interventions for young people who use drugs. The intervention implementing process may last more than 2 years, but the result should be sustainable, effective in the long term, able to make appropriate policy recommendations in the future, even after the end of this project. 

The 5% Initiative and essential support from France in the prevention of HIV transmission

“SCDI is highly capable to reach specific populations thanks to their expertise and strong will.", "We wish SCDI the best of success with this project and will stand by them in the implementation phase.”

 Mr. Sébastien Mosneron Dupin, Expertise France CEO. Photo credit: SCDI


“Complementary to the  Global Fund,  the 5%  Initiative has become a major vector  for France’s commitment to fight against infectious diseases. Access to prevention, diagnostics and treatment for vulnerable populations is essential to achieve our objective of rolling back the pandemics. We wish  to acknowledge  the essential  role of communities and we strongly  believe  that much  remains  to  be  done  to  reach  key  populations.  This support is  the core mandate of  the 5%  Initiative and Expertise France’ strategy.” Said Mr. Sébastien Mosneron Dupin, Expertise France CEO said. “Expertise  France  is  particularly  proud  to  partner  with  SCDI  through  the  5% Initiative with this 3-year grant of 860000 euros. We wish SCDI the best of success with this project and will stand by them in the implementation phase”.
 
Explaining on why SCDI – a NGO instead of a national organization to receive the fund, Mr. Sebastien declared that: “SCDI is highly capable to reach specific populations thanks to their expertise and strong will. I highly appreciate their initiatives for tackling young generations. Likewise in France, we are facing the same challenge and are looking for effective solution, and we do hope to share valuable experience with Vietnam through this project”.

Meet French President François Hollande with gratitude expression from SCDI
On September 7th, during a meeting with President François Hollande, on behalf of SCDI and communities SCDI works with, Dr. Khuat Thi Hai Oanh expressed her appreciation of France's contribution and individual commitment of Mr. President for the prevention of HIV/AIDS in the world as well as in Vietnam. She also shared with the President her warm feeling towards French colleagues, "In my years of working with them, I could feel the French values 'Liberty, Equality, Fraternity' engraved in your work ethics, the support of the French authorities and experts in efforts to control HIV infection as well as alternative treatment for people who use drugs". A small gift from SCDI has been dedicated to the President with the wishes to collaborate with France in the prevention of HIV and other infectious diseases in the future. 


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