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Drug dependence: Viet Nam is discussing voluntary community based treatment and care

Ho Chi Minh city and Hai Phong city (Viet Nam), 9 June 2014 - As of December 2013, there were 181, 396 registered drug dependent people In Vietnam, an increase of approximately 5% since 2012. The Government estimates that the actual number is much higher.

Although Vietnam still maintains compulsory treatment for drug dependence in the so-called "06 centres" the Government has undertaken some important measures to scale up voluntary and diversified services for drug dependence treatment and care at the provincial level.

However, the central level decisions need to be supported through the effective implementation plans on the ground in order to enforce the reform process.

  • What models of the voluntary community based treatment can be applied in Vietnam?
  • What are the challenges and gaps that the provincial authorities face in piloting voluntary and human rights based approach in addressing needs of drug dependent people?

The national consultation organized by the National Committee for HIV/AIDS, Drugs and Prostitution Prevention and the United Nations Office on Drugs Control (UNODC) on May 20-22nd, 2014 in Ho Chi Minh city and Hai Phong was entirely focused on these issues.

The consultation workshops were attended by overall 150 participants from line ministries - Ministry of Health, Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs, Ministry of Public Security, as well as by provincial authorities from 19 provinces and civil society organizations.

The workshops created an opportunity for participants - including representatives of a network of drug users - to share experiences, best practices, and lessons learned on delivering effective drug dependence treatment and care services. Sharing his experiences at the workshop, Mr. Do Ngoc An from Binh Duong Provincial Police Department emphasized "There needs to be a roadmap on community based drug dependence treatment and care, my question for MOLISA is on such a roadmap since the current facilities and infrastructures do not respond to the requirements of treatment... It is ideal and excellent if community based treatment could be implemented yet who would be the ones who directly carry out or coordinate the services? How is technical training for those people?"

At the workshop, representatives from the networks of people who use drugs (VNPUD) mentioned their difficulties of lacking the support from local authority and expressed their expectations to the current treatment programmes "We hope we will have the right to live and to work as other ordinary people and we hope the methadone maintenance treatment program will be expanded to all cities and provinces and the community based drug treatment which is open and friendly, where we could come in everyday for our medicine will be established soon", said Ms. Dang Thi Hong Nhung , representative from Vietnam Network of People Who Use Drugs (VNPUD).

Speaking at the workshops, Ms. Zhuldyz Akisheva, Country Manager for UNODC in Vietnam, emphasized the UN position on compulsory treatment "The UN Country Team called the Government of Vietnam to revise as a matter of urgency, the practice of compulsory detention for people who use drugs and sex workers, noting the ineffectiveness of 06 centres in treating drug addiction; the lack of due process safeguards; inadequate access to health care in the centres; and the impact of the centres on discouraging people who use drugs from accessing community-based health services".

Ms Anja Busse highlighted that drug addiction is health disorder that often takes the course of a chronic and remitting disease - not a social evil or a choice. People affected by drug dependence need a supportive community environment - instead of stigma and discrimination - to help them in their recovery process. Accessible, affordable, diversified and evidence-based services therefore need to be made available in a rights-based framework along a continuum of care in support of people affected by drug use and dependence, their families and communities. As all other health care interventions, drug dependence treatment, should be carried out on a voluntary basis with informed consent of the patient.

Mr. Kevin Mulvey, Substance Abuse Treatment Advisor, SAMHSA, in his presentation emphasized that "Drug addiction is a chronic relapsing disease just like any other chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, arthritis and asthma that requires long-term treatment, taking into consideration the biological, social and psychological aspect of the whole person".

In his closing remarks, Mr. Doan Huu Bay, Deputy Director General of the Department of Science, Education, Social and Cultural Affairs stated "As no single organization can successfully and effectively address this issue alone, multisectoral collaboration among health, social welfare, law enforcement, and judiciary institutions is of vital importance in order to assist in developing voluntary, effective and accessible and community-based services for people who use drugs ".

The workshops highlighted the existing gaps and complex measures, including those identified by drug users themselves, that need to be put in place in order to scale up voluntary community-based treatment and care as alternatives to 06 centres. Relevant recommendations will be followed up by the National Committeeon HIV/AIDS, Drugs and Prostitution Prevention in their review meeting with provinces.

UNODC and WHO are committed to work with the National Committee for HIV/AIDS, Drugs and Prostitution Prevention, the Vietnam Administration for AIDS Control (Ministry of Health), relevant national agencies and civil society organizations in support of the provision of voluntary, evidence-informed, rights-based and comprehensive treatment and care services for people affected by drug dependence in Vietnam.

For reference documents please see Southeast Asia Information Brief on Community-based Treatment and Care for Drug Use and Dependence and the Guidance Document for Community-based Treatment and Care Services for People Affected by Drug Use and Dependence in Southeast Asia at