See also:

UNODC work on HIV and AIDS receives Medal of Merit from the Vietnamese Government

Hanoi (Viet Nam), 3 September 2010
- The Government of Viet Nam awarded the Medal of Merit to UNODC's Jason Eligh on 2 August for his contribution, as HIV/AIDS Adviser, to the socio-economic development of ethnic minorities in that country.

Mr. Eligh, who currently heads the UNODC Country Office in Myanmar, said: "I have always felt strongly about supporting ethnic minorities in northern Viet Nam, as they are often more vulnerable to socio-economic problems".

In some areas of the Vietnamese highlands, 95 per cent of the population is composed of ethnic minorities whose problems are compounded by two factors: one of the highest rates of drug use per capita in the country and a rapid change in drug habits that has seen users going from smoking opium to smoking and injecting heroin.

This new trend of injecting drugs has led to an increased risk of HIV infection and other blood-borne viruses. Access to information and medical treatment is limited in highland provinces and few people are aware of the risks associated with injecting drugs, especially with regard to HIV.

The United Nations in Viet Nam has made the Millennium Development Goal to combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases one of its key priorities, supporting the Government of Viet Nam in its efforts to prevent HIV and drug abuse, and to provide services to people living with HIV.

Through its technical assistance work, UNODC continuously works to expand its programme on HIV prevention, drug use prevention, treatment and relapse prevention among highland ethnic minorities in Viet Nam.

Mr. Eligh's award contributes to drawing attention to the problems faced by Viet Nam's ethnic minorities, including lack of proper socio-economic development.