22 Mar 2017

Study: Vietnam needs to address gay men to combat HIV and Aids

Some 16 percent of men who have sex with men in the urban centres of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City are estimated to be living with HIV.

Men who have sex with men (MSM) in Vietnam risk being left behind as the country strives to achieve UNAIDS targets for HIV, according to a study cited in Aidsmap.

Research by Hanoi Medical University and the University of New South Wales found that of 35 HIV-positive MSM living in Hanoi, nine of the men were not linked to care, six were linked to care but were not taking antiretroviral therapy (ART), and 20 were taking ART.

HIV infections continue to rise in Vietnam, with 16% of MSM in the urban centres of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City estimated to be living with HIV.

Most participants of the survey had taken the test after being strongly encouraged to do so by outreach workers. Many interviewees’ response to their HIV diagnosis was intense and painful. The report quotes two examples:

“The result was a tremendous shock… I couldn’t think of anything and just wanted to go somewhere and do something for fun before ending my life… I did all kinds of things such as using marijuana, ecstasy and ice [crystal methamphetamine].” 

“I hated him [sex partner] and other gay people also. I couldn’t trust anyone. I didn’t feel like [having sex] any more.”

Survey respondents also expressed frustration and being stigmatised when accessing HIV medical assistance.

Gay men were often seen as “abnormal,” and families were not accepting of same sex relationships and an HIV diagnosis could compound stigma felt in relation to sexuality.

One man said he regretted testing for HIV and accessing ART. He then talked about how he felt when he spoke with his mother:

“I felt much more afraid than the moment I was diagnosed. I did not know how I can live if my family are aware of my HIV status and how my family can live in my commune if my HIV status is revealed…"