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
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
''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
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
The draft legislation, which is a revised version of the first
Ordinance on HIV/AIDS promulgated in 1995, aims to limit these cases.
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''.