VN scientific symposium urges giving priority to research on viral hepatitis and HIV-TB or hepatitis co-infections
Hanoi (Viet Nam), 10 October 2013 - Although Viet Nam has made significant progress in controlling and reversing the HIV epidemic in the past 10 years, HIV prevalence among people who inject drugs (11.6 per cent) remains higher than in its general population (0.4 per cent).
An estimated 217,400 people inject drugs in Viet Nam. Injection is the primary mode of administration for heroin - the most widely used illicit drug in Viet Nam, followed by amphetamine-type-stimulants (ATS) - and the secondary mode for opium, the country's third most widely used illicit drug, according to the UNODC
World Drug Report 2013.
To address these challenges, participants to the Scientific Symposium on HIV and Viral Hepatitis said that future efforts needed to prioritize clinical, operational and social science research on viral hepatitis and co-infections of HIV and tuberculosis (TB) and HIV-hepatitis, particularly among among key populations at risk for HIV such as people who use drugs, men who have sex with men, transgender people and sex workers.
Other key future research areas delegates identified included the link between amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS) use and HIV risk, and pharmacotherapy treatment for people who develop ATS dependence.
Hosted by the Government of Viet Nam as part of its continuing efforts to fight HIV, the Scientific Symposium on HIV and Viral Hepatitis was held 30 September-2 October 2013 at the French Institute in Hanoi.
The Symposium was officially opened by Professor Nguyen Thi Kim Tien, Minister of Health of Viet Nam.
Dr. Françoise Barré-Sinoussi, who won the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 2008 for co-discovering the HIV in 1983, delivered a keynote speech titled
"30 years of HIV science, 20 years of partnership in South East Asia".
Researchers, government officials and representatives from civil society organizations made a number of presentations that provided insight into the latest scientific and programmatic responses on HIV prevention and treatment, co-infection of HIV and hepatitis/TB, and substance use disorders.
Dr. Anne Bergenstrom, Regional Adviser on HIV/AIDS at
UNODC Regional Office for Southeast Asia and the Pacific (ROSEAP), highlighted impressive progress by the Government of Viet Nam in rapidly scaling-up methadone maintenance treatment and needle and syringe programmes to reach large numbers of people who inject drugs across Vietnam. She also stressed that Southeast Asian countries needed to do more to achieve by 2015 the HIV-related targets included in the Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS.