Launch of Project “Strengthening the participation of social organizations and community–based organizations in the HIV response”

Prof. Dang Vu Minh, VUSTA President,

Dr. Hoang Dinh Canh, Viet Nam Administration for HIV/AIDS Control Deputy Director,

Colleagues and friends,

Good morning:

I am very happy to be with you, the civil society partners working in Viet Nam’s HIV response, for the launch of your project to “Strengthen the participation of social organizations and community-based organizations in the response to HIV”. I think this is a very good time to discuss your new project, because we have just entered a new period in the global HIV response, in which we are called upon to work toward the end of AIDS with new momentum.

Viet Nam and the rest of the world has committed to ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030. UNAIDS’ new approach to Fast-Track the HIV response toward this ambitious aim has received the support of all partners in the global HIV response, as well as the support of countries that bear the biggest burden of the epidemic and account for 89% of all new HIV infections. Viet Nam is one of these “Fast Track” countries.

So what is this Fast Track approach, and why do we need it?

We have all seen that the AIDS response has produced impressive results, in Viet Nam and in other parts of the world. Nonetheless, the gap between achievements and the goal of ending the AIDS epidemic remains very wide. Maintaining today’s response at the current pace is not enough to end an epidemic that is constantly evolving. Choosing a business as usual approach would mean that the numbers of people newly infected with HIV would increase, pushing the numbers of people living with HIV ever higher, and leading to very high demand for costly HIV treatment in the future.

Choosing the Fast Track approach means accelerating the delivery of high-impact HIV prevention and treatment services; introducing innovations to expand those services and bringing them closer to the people who need them; and, focusing on the locations and populations with the highest HIV burden. It addresses social and legal barriers, and advances human rights and gender equality, on an urgent basis. It incorporates attention to the 90-90-90 targets on testing and treatment, but it compels us to speed up, and to build new momentum toward achievement of these targets.

Let me take this opportunity to emphasize the importance of your project’s work on HIV prevention service provision for people who inject drugs, sex workers, men who have sex with men and transgender people. These people are especially vulnerable to HIV, and we have to make sure that they have easy access to high quality needles and syringes, condoms and methadone treatment in order to protect them from HIV infection.

While Viet Nam has made a huge effort to expand the coverage of methadone, the country has not yet been able to meet the target of providing methadone to 80,000 people who inject drugs by 2015. Many people who are injecting drugs out there still need clean needles and syringes for HIV prevention, because they do not yet have access to methadone. Earlier this year in a visit to Dien Bien, I checked a needle and syringe distribution box, and I found that it was empty…we simply can’t afford to let that happen! Your project can help ensure that key populations at higher risk of HIV can easily access the commodities they need for HIV prevention.

You are also best positioned, I believe, to mobilize affected communities as well as the wider society to reduce stigma and discrimination related to HIV. This is so important! We know that stigma and discrimination are blocking the progress of Viet Nam’s national response, in the same way that it blocks progress everywhere in the world. We hear many stories of people living with HIV and key at-risk populations who cannot access health, social and legal services due to stigma and discrimination, or who are afraid to even try to access those services because of how they might be treated. I really encourage your project to take on the challenge of achieve zero discrimination as a major part of your work.

Dear colleagues,

Evidence from all over the world confirms that a truly effective response to HIV requires the meaningful participation of civil society organizations. What the civil society in Viet Nam has done to date in support of HIV service provision and capacity building has been extremely impressive. However, the funding environment is changing, and there is an urgent need to work more effectively and more efficiently in order to achieve the new and ambitious Fast Track targets. Therefore, civil society partners, and this project in particular, will need to work more efficiently in your efforts to maintain high quality peer-to-peer services, to reach out to more people in need, and to engage in the national response in a very focused and optimally effective  way.

In this light, I am especially encouraged to learn about your project’s work on the Law on Association, supporting the legal registration of key populations’ community-based organizations, and establishment of procedures and tools for civil society’s monitoring of health services for key populations. I wish you much success in these efforts, but I also urge you to embrace the Fast Track approach as you move forward, and to challenge yourselves to work with intensity toward achieving our national targets within the timeframe that we have established.

Finally, I would like to draw your attention to the fact that we are meeting today in the run up to World AIDS Day on the 1st of December. On World AIDS Day this year, we will, as always, remember all those many thousands of people who have lost their battles with AIDS. But this year, we will also show our personal and collective commitment to fast-tracking the HIV response toward ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030. Let us all take concrete and meaningful action to show our support to people living with HIV and to those who are at higher risk of infection. Let us also re-commit ourselves to working together to assure that no one gets left behind in our race to the end of the HIV epidemic.

Thank you and chuc suc khoe!

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