Drug substitution treatment steps up fight against HIV/AIDS

News release

A press release from the WHO Viet Nam office

HANOI, 2 November, 2005

As at May 2005, a reported 95,500 people were living with HIV/AIDS nationwide, with 15,500 reported AIDS cases and nearly 9,000 reported deaths.

Drug use, including injecting drug use, is spread across the community. Drug users are husbands, wives, school children, from many social classes, legal and illegal industries, in rural and urban areas.

Today in Asia, needle and syringe use in particular accounts for the majority of new infections of HIV/AIDS.

A report on the community survey carried out by the CCIC, presented at the Hanoi workshop, highlighted popular support for effective responses to HIV/AIDS and drug dependence treatment, including substitution treatments.

The report revealed a sound understanding of the key issues in the area of HIV/AIDS and drug use, and strong support for a comprehensive response, including pharmacotherapy, particularly methadone substitution.

Methadone maintenance treatment (MMT), one of the most researched and effective treatments available for drug dependence today, is viewed as an essential part of a comprehensive response to drug use in the community and to HIV/AIDS, both of which are problems facing Viet Nam.

“Extensive research shows that by combining common approaches to the drug problem with harm reduction methods such as drug substitution treatment, an effective response can be achieved,” said Dr. Hans Troedsson, WHO Representative for Viet Nam. “This combination approach can not only avert an HIV crisis but also directly addresses the problem of drug use.”

Recently there has been a dramatic change in the use of pharmacotherapy. Methadone maintenance treatment is the most widely used and also the most widely studied pharmacotherapy, with demonstrated benefits through drug use related risk, sexual behavior risk and cost effectiveness.

“The future of the HIV pandemic in Asia, including Viet Nam, will largely depend on response to drug use,” said Prof. Dr. Dao Duy Quat, Vice Chairman of the CCIC. “Pharmacotherapy is an important and necessary prevention measure for effective response to the spread of HIV/AIDS and drug use.”

Some 150 participants attended the workshop, from ministries, central and local level agencies, Government offices, the National Assembly as well as national and international organizations and mass media representatives.

For further information, please contact Ms Dida Connor, WHO Viet Nam Communication Officer, at tel: (844) 944 3734 to 26, or email: didac@vtn.wpro.who.int.