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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Draft VN law to force disclosure of HIV status to spouses comes under fire

Draft VN law to force disclosure of HIV status to spouses comes under fire

HO CHI MINH CITY (IPS) - A draft law in Vietnam that will force people living

with HIV/AIDS to inform their spouses of their health status is under fire from

community health workers who claim the proposed legislation is unrealistic and

ignores present realities.

Currently in the National Assembly's Standing

Committee, the draft ordinance states, ''in case the HIV carrier refuses to

inform his or her spouse about their heath condition, the local health center

has the responsibility to inform the spouse within 30 days after receiving the

HIV positive test.''

''It's unrealistic,'' said Hoang Thi Hanh, a

community health worker who revealed that convincing people to take an HIV test

was hard enough. ''It's already difficult to tell the patient that he's got HIV,

so I don't know how I could ask him to tell the bad news to his spouse,'' she

said.

Nguyen Oanh is a 26-year-old person living with HIV/AIDS. He

recalled the difficulty of getting health workers to even reveal the results of

his test.

''When the doctors started treating me strangely and kept me at

a distance, I realised something was wrong. They could not even tell me I was

HIV positive until I asked them,'' he said.

The first HIV case was

detected in Vietnam in 1990. According to official figures there are now 88,400

Vietnamese living with the disease, of which 14,000 have developed full-blown

AIDS.

But many international agencies believe that these figures are

underestimated, mainly because of underreporting and a lack of comprehensive

data collection -obstacles that are complicated by a perception among some

policy-makers that HIV/AIDS is associated with ''social evils'', namely

prostitution and drugs.

The World Health Organisation said the number of

HIV-infected people in Vietnam is increasing rapidly, with 200,000 infections

reported in 2004. WHO attributed the increase to intravenous drug abuse,

unprotected sex and transmission through blood transfusions.

It is only

recently that people started to be aware that innocent women could also contract

HIV - the virus that causes AIDS - and pass it on to their children if their

spouses hide their illness and take no protective measures while having

sex.

The draft legislation, which is a revised version of the first

Ordinance on HIV/AIDS promulgated in 1995, aims to limit these cases.

In

her appraisal report, Nguyen Hoai Thu, director of the National Assembly's

social affairs committee, remarked that the revised provisions would be

impracticable if people continued to regard HIV/AIDS a ''social evil''.

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