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Social Stigmas in Vietnam Deter Gay Men From HIV Testing and Treatment

Men who have sex with men (MSM) in Vietnam still face social and bureaucratic barriers when accessing HIV testing and treatment, a survey has found.

According to the online AIDS map created by NAM, the HIV and AIDS awareness-raising site, HIV infections in Vietnam are prevalent among intravenous drug users, female sex workers and MSM. Currently 16% of MSM in Hanoi and Saigon are estimated to be living with HIV, NAM reports.

However many are unaware of the hardships that MSM face in accessing HIV testing and treatment.

Through in-depth interviews of 35 HIV-positive MSM in Hanoi, researchers from the Hanoi Medical University and the Sydney-based University of New South Wales found that most participants were unprepared to visit a medical facility for a diagnosis due to their limited knowledge of HIV and lack of awareness of the risks associated with the virus. They only got tested after outreach workers encouraged them to do so.

Social stigmas surround both homosexuality and HIV in Vietnam, and many men are reluctant to get tested, let alone treated.

“I was so sad because, first, being a man who has sex with other men means that something is already wrong and now, being HIV infected is too much to overcome,” one survey participant told the researchers.

In addition, respondents also expressed concerns regarding breaches of doctor-patient confidentiality and the lack of transparency and consistency in requirements for health clinic registration.

"After my ART (anti-retroviral treatment) initiation, the HIV clinic sent my identity information to the health station in my hometown and the health station informed my mother of my HIV status," another participant shared.

The interviews were conducted in 2015, a year after Vietnam adopted UNAIDS’ 90-90-90 targets. According to this program, by 2020, 90% of all people living with HIV will know their HIV status; 90% of all people with a diagnosed HIV infection will receive sustained ART; and 90% of all people receiving ART will have virus suppression.

[Photo via VOA]

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