UN lauds Viet Nam’s renewed commitment to harm reduction

Ha Noi, 28 July 2008 – On behalf of the international community, the United Nations commends the Government of Viet Nam for its strong leadership in responding to HIV and supporting harm reduction interventions.

At a high-level meeting on HIV, harm reduction and drug treatment, Deputy Prime Minister Truong Vinh Trong, who is also Chairman of the National Committee on AIDS, Drugs and Prostitution Prevention and Control, called on international partners to work with the Government of Viet Nam to expand harm reduction activities and drug treatment.

International experts in addiction and drug science and representatives from donors, NGOs and the United Nations joined the Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Health Nguyen Quoc Trieu and Minister of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan, as well as the leaders from the People’s Committees of all 64 provinces at a symposium on HIV harm reduction and opiate dependence treatment in Hanoi.

Health Minister Trieu said that a recent study visit to Australia had demonstrated that harm reduction should an essential part of any HIV response. He added that harm reduction, including the methadone maintenance therapy programme currently being piloted in Hai Phong and Ho Chi Minh City, was a good way to respond to HIV and drug use in Viet Nam.

“Drug addiction is a chronic, relapsing brain disease,” said Dr Jon Currie, a professor of addiction medicine from St Vincent’s Hospital in Melbourne, Australia. “The brain changes when people use drugs, but it can improve with the right medication.”

Dr Robert Ali, a professor from the University of Adelaide, Australia, told the symposium that methadone maintenance therapy substantially reduces heroin use and adverse, health, legal and social consequences of heroin dependence.

UNAIDS Country Director and chair of the Joint UN Team on HIV, Mr Eamonn Murphy, said that leaders of Viet Nam have been recognized globally for their strong people-centred approach to HIV prevention, care and treatment. 

Increasingly, Viet Nam is adopting ‘harm reduction’ approaches to respond to HIV and drug use. The main objective of harm reduction is to mitigate potential dangers associated with risky behaviours such as injecting drug use, casual sex and sex work. 

Representatives of the international community in Hanoi attended the meeting to demonstrate strong support for the Government of Viet Nam’s leadership in responding to HIV and drug use.

In Viet Nam, the World Health Organization, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and UNAIDS are working with the government to introduce harm reduction interventions. This work is supported by donors such as the US Government (through PEPFAR), the World Bank, DfID, AusAID, the Royal Netherlands Embassy and technical partners Family Health International, Populations Services International, Health Policy Initiative, Medecins de Monde, Management Sciences for Health and others.

For further information, please contact:


Eamonn Murphy
UNAIDS Country Director
Tel: (84-4) 3734 2824
Fax: (84-4) 3734 2825
Mobile: (84) 91 87 62 620
E-mail: murphye@unaids.org

Nguyen Thi Phuong Mai 
UNAIDS Senior Programme Officer
Tel: (84-4) 3734 2824
Fax: (84-4) 3734 2825
Mobile: (84) 91 21 40 645
E-mail: nguyenm@unaids.org

On Methadone Maintenance Therapy:

World Health Organization (WHO):
Dr. David Jacka
Medical Officer 
Tel: (84-4) 3943 3734/5/6
Fax: (84-4) 3943 3740
E-mail: jackad@wpro.who.int

Dr. Nguyen To Nhu
Senior Program Officer
Tel : (84-4) 3934-8560 /ext 128
Fax : (84-4) 3934-8650
E-mail : tonhu@fhi.org.vn

Green One UN House, 304 Kim Ma, Ba Dinh, Ha Noi, Viet Nam