(9 May 2016 Viet Nam) - To learn from the Viet Nam experience, high ranking officials from Bangladesh participated in a study-tour of Viet Nam's opioid substitution treatment (OST) clinics. OST is an effective method for reducing drug dependency and decreasing the risk of HIV transmission.
The delegation were drawn from the Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, and the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (icddr,b).
Vietnam started the Methadone Maintenance therapy (MMT) program in 2008. At present, there are more than 45,000 patients being treated in 240 clinics in 57 provinces. Recently, Vietnam scaled up its OST program by implementing a pilot MMT program in two prisons.
By contrast, Bangladesh's OST program was first implemented in 2010. There are currently four OST clinics in Dhaka operating under the Department of Narcotics Control and the national STD/AIDS programme. It is estimated that more than 20,000 people are in need of OST, however, current services are only able to accommodate about 400 patients. In the face of growing need, icddr,b organized the study-tour is to gain exposure to a successful scale-up initiative.
Exposure to a successful programme will help Bangladesh expedite the process of a smooth scale-up, said Dr. Tasnim Azim, Director Programme for HIV and AIDS, icddr,b.
The delegation began their study tour with a visit to the Viet Nam Authority of HIV/ AIDS control (VAAC) on 9 May and spent the next two days visiting OST clinics in Viet Nam.
On the final day of the study tour Lieutenant Colonel Duong Thu Hang, Deputy Head , Preventive Medicine Division, Ministry of Public Security made a presentation on the achievements and challenges of implementing methadone maintenance treatment (MMT) in prison settings.
MMT in prison efforts were most effective when approached from an evidence-based health perspective, as opposed from an administrative perspective, said Lt. Col. Dr. Hang.
Discussing the challenges, Lt. Col. Dr. Hang identified unwillingness on the part of health care workers to work in prison and the stigma attached to HIV as surmountable. She added that government backing and support for MMT service was crucial to Vietnam's successful expansion of OST services.
In October 2015, with UNODC support, Phu Son Prison launched, the first Methadone Maintenance Therapy (MMT) Service Unit for Prisoners in Viet Nam.
Photo: UNODC Viet Nam