Viet Nam opens the first Methadone Maintenance Therapy Service Unit for Prisoners

Hanoi -  Phu Son Prison has launched, the first Methadone Maintenance Therapy (MMT) Service Unit for Prisoners in Viet Nam with support from UNODC Vietnam.

"In 2010, I participated in a study visit supported by UNODC to learn about prison based Methadone programmes in Spain. Witnessing positive impacts of the programme on prisoners as individuals and prisons as a whole, I reported the visit results and recommendations to Ministry of Public Security," said Police Colonel Nguyen Xuan Truong, Chief Prison Officer at Phu Son Prison. "It has been quite a wait since then but I am happy the Phu Son is the first prison to open Methadone services for prisoners." The launch of the pilot MMT service in Phu Son prison marks a significant milestone for the dedicated and long-term effort of UNODC and Vietnam government in HIV prevention, treatment and care in Viet Nam prison settings.

"Since 2009, UNODC has worked with the Government of Viet Nam  to provide Opoid Substitution Therapy as part of the comprehensive HIV service package for people who are living and working in prisons," said Christopher Batt, UNODC Officer-In-Charge. 

The MMT service, is an evidence-based therapy for opioid dependence. It reduces opioid use by eliminating withdrawal symptoms and drug craving, decreasing the risk of HIV or other blood-borne transmission and criminal behaviour.

In addition, it integrates the patient into a continuum of care during and after prison stay.

The MMT service unit is expected to enhance prisoners' quality of lives and education, reducing transmission of HIV and other diseases, decreasing rate of relapse and overdose in prison settings, Mr Batt added.

"The first methadone treatment service opened in the prison has offered adequate treatment to the prisoners affected by drugs, which brings equality for all. The prisoners have the same rights to access to good health care services as the others," Mr Batt said.

Viet Nam Ministry of Public Security estimates that three out of 10 prisoners use drugs.

Prison populations are at high risks of getting infected by HIV or other blood-borne diseases including viral hepatitis B or C, relapse or overdose if their treatment needs are not met.

UNODC Viet Nam will launch a second MMT service unit in Thanh Xuan prison, with plans to expand to other prisons. The initiative is part of a UNODC project that aims to increase the quality of services related to HIV prevention, treatment and care in prisons.

Photo: UNODC Viet Nam

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