Over the weekend, government leaders and public health experts convened for a conference to build “Towards a Comprehensive Care for Substance Users: Integration of Substance Use Disorders, HIV, and Other Services.” The bi-annual conference is the only one of its kind in Vietnam to integrate substance use and HIV/AIDS. The goals of the conference are to promote and build a comprehensive and integrated care system that treats substance use disorders and HIV/AIDS, and more effectively reduces the burden of these diseases on individuals, families, and the community.
“Health is just one outcome of the [methadone] program. Community safety and security are also direct outcomes, along with economic benefits for the family. With great support from our leaders and the community, we need to expand and integrate our programs and focus more on addiction, especially as new challenges arise,” said Vice Minister of Health Nguyen Thanh Long at the opening session. “Individuals that get into the program, such as in Hai Phong, reported a 70 percent reduction in criminal activity with 48 percent of the patients being employed and productive members of the family and community.”
Supported by the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the Vietnam HIV Addiction Technology Transfer Center (VHATTC) at the Hanoi Medical University organized the three-day conference with approximately 350 participants from the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Labor and Invalids and Social Affairs, and Ministry of Public Security, including 30 provinces and experts from local non-government and community-based organizations and international organizations and universities, such as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (U.S. CDC), USAID, the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), and FHI360.
Participants discussed state-of-the-art evidence-based approaches and community-based treatment models to integrate substance use disorders and HIV/AIDS into Vietnam’s existing healthcare system, including methadone treatment, alcohol, heroin, and methamphetamine treatments, tuberculosis, hepatitis, and community-based treatment for vulnerable populations such as men who have sex with men, women, and children.