UNAIDS Speech at VUSTA’s meeting on experience sharing among social organizations active in the response to HIV, 29 May 2012

Dr. Pham Van Tan, Secretary General of Viet Nam Union of Science and Technology Associations;

Dr. Nguyen Van Tien, Vice Chair of the Social Committee, National Assembly of Viet Nam;

Mr. Dang Dinh Luyen, Vice Chair of the Legislation Commission, National Assembly of Viet Nam;

Mr. Hoang Xuan Luong, Member of the National Committee for AIDS, Drugs and Prostitution Control;

Mr. Chu Duc Nhuan, Director of Department of Social Affairs, Office of the Government;

Colleagues and friends:

It is my honor to be with you today to share the contributions and experiences of social organizations in the national response to HIV.

I would like to begin by congratulating Viet Nam’s Union of Science and Technology Associations. Their effort to bring all of us together today to discuss this important issue highlights VUSTA’s leadership role among social organizations within Viet Nam’s HIV response, as well as a new member of the National Committee for AIDS, Drugs and Prostitution Prevention and Control

I would also like to acknowledge the great contributions that have been made by social organizations in Viet Nam to work with Government curb the spread of HIV among key populations at higher risk of HIV infection including people who inject drugs, sex workers and their clients, men who have sex with men, and the sexual partners of these groups, as well as to deliver treatment, care and support for people living with and affected by HIV.

You will hear more details of this in the next two days of discussion but I would in particular like to highlight:

First, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, MOLISA, the Women’s Union and others, community-based social organizations are the long arm for health and social service providers for HIV prevention like distributing and explaining the use and benefits of condoms and sterile needles and syringes. You connect people living with HIV to treatment programmes and take care of them at their homes. And under the leadership of VUSTA, the service-delivery efforts of social organizations are being expanded through a project funded by a grant from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

Second, community-based social organizations are organizing themselves better and building their capacities. For example, the member groups of the Viet Nam Network of PLHIV meet each year to set the network’s priorities and to choose their leaders in a transparent manner. Provincial and national MSM technical working groups are bringing together the MSM community and harm reduction specialists from Provincial AIDS Centres to coordinate their HIV prevention, anti-stigma and advocacy efforts. And self-help groups of people who inject drugs and sex workers are beginning to form networks to coordinate their growing contribution to the HIV response.

Third, social organizations are becoming more active in policy discussions and national programme management. As well as VUSTA’s role within the National Committee, the Women’s Union, the Youth Union, people living with HIV, two NGOs and the privte sector are members the Country Coordination Mechanism of the Global Fund, where decisions are made for large amounts of HIV fundings. And self-help groups and networks of people living with HIV and key populations at higher risk of HIV infection were consulted by the Government during the development of the new National Strategy for HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control and Viet Nam’s HIV Response Progress Report to the United Nations.

Colleagues and friends,

These contributions of social organizations are critical, and on behalf of the United Nations I congratulate the Government of Viet Nam for supporting the participation of social organizations in the HIV response. It is a wise move. Donor resources for HIV are decreasing, both globally and in Viet Nam, which is a big challenge for all of us. If we consider that more than 70% of international resources in the current total funds for Viet Nam’s HIV programmes, a rapid reduction in donor funds could threaten further progress or even reverse achievements. Social mobilization of the people to work for the good of the nation is an effective strategy in challenging times, and no one knows this better than Viet Nam. In 1941, Ho Chi Minh established the Viet Minh Alliance Front (Mat tran Viet Minh) with an aim to bring together people from all levels of society, all patriotic organizations and all political parties to fight for independence and freedom for the whole nation. The Viet Minh Alliance Front was successful in helping to mobilize the most affected populations and achieve freedom for Viet Nam. Today, you are mobilizing different groups of most affected populations in the fight against the HIV enemy so Vietnamese people can achieve the Millennium Development Goal to halt and reverse the HIV epidemic by 2015. We have already seen Viet Nam use its combined strength to achieve the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 1 on Poverty Reduction and Hunger Eradication. We know it can be done.

The United Nations also understands the importance of social organizations, or as we in the United Nations like to call them “civil society”. UNAIDS was the first United Nations programme to have formal civil society representation on its governing body. When we did this there was a lot of debate on the question, “What is civil society?” We learned that different countries have very different answers to this question, and we struggled to agree on a consensus answer. There were a lot of discussion during the planning of this workshop on this very same question, I learned that we also have very different definitions here in Viet Nam. So I would like to share with you the official UNAIDS definition. According to the UNAIDS Programme Coordinating Board, civil society is “a broad array of people working for or with nongovernmental organizations actively engaged in local, national, regional or global HIV issues.” These nongovernmental organizations include “local, national, regional and international NGOs, networks of people living with HIV, AIDS service organizations, community-based organizations, AIDS activist organizations, faith-based organizations, and networks or coalitions of AIDS organizations”.

In other words, we have a broad definition, because in the end, that is the approach we need – broad engagement.

Colleagues and friends,

The United Nations in Viet Nam always stands by your side and very much looks forward to continuing our partnership with you and other partners in supporting Viet Nam’s efforts to reach Zero new HIV infections, Zero discrimination, and Zero AIDS-related deaths.

Xin cam on va chuc suc khoe.

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