Friday, June 27, 2008

AIDS Programme Vietnam

AIDS Programme Vietnam is an NGO based at the central district of Ho Chi Min City. Its vision is towards the empowerment of the poor to achieve a quality life. Its mission is to increase knowledge of the people particularly the people living with HIV (PLHIV). It also addresses related issues such as women and children’s rights, prevention, treatment, care and support of HIV and STIs (sexually transmitted infections). AIDS Programme makes sure that their programs and projects are aligned with the National AIDS Programme.

The organization provides services to seven slum areas in Ho Chi Min City. Its services include capability building on methods of communication, social networking, harm reduction, literacy and other relevant issues. They also have a Savings and Credit Program or the Microlending which have 35 group memberships. This, they believe will contribute to the empowerment of the people. The organization also provides academic scholarships to deserving students in the community. They give one scholarship for every community. Currently, they have a total of 45 scholarship awards. For those who are out-of-school-youth they help provide vocational trainings such as mechanics. Some of them have finished school and have rendered services to the organization either as employees or volunteers.

With AIDS Programme Vietnam’s many projects, the organization has adapted the participatory approach where they opened their organization to volunteers who are willing to serve the community. The organization has 10 full time staff and is augmented by 20 volunteers who provide assistance to women’s groups, children in school, to PLHIV, especially home care services to 150 PLHIVs. The volunteers live with the community.

The organization has also partnered with HIV/AIDS Vietnam Action Group (HAVAG) which is based in Hanoi. HAVAG provides technical assistance to AIDS Programme in training, harm reduction, peer education and communication.

One of the major projects of the organization is the procurement of ARVs from drug companies at a lesser price, which is 15-25% cheaper. This is to ensure that even PLHIVs with low income can still access ARVs including access to opportunistic infection drugs for free.

The organization also publish newsletter both in electronic and in print format. The newsletter is written in Vietnamese. They said that though many Vietnamese cannot read English well, they also welcome materials from other organizations.

IDU or injecting drug use is high in HCMC. Being one of the major modes of transmission, the organization has also implemented programs for IDU which is community based. This includes support for detoxification and needle exchange. However, IDUs still live in the shadows, and so this program is carefully implemented. Bringing needles for the needle exchange program is illegal and can put the peer educators at risk when delivering services.

The organization believes that it still has many works to do in response to AIDS. They also believe that change cannot be achieved immediately but slowly, they hope to have a non-discriminatory society for people living with HIV.

For more info, please contact AIDS Programme Vietnam, 54/32 Le Quang Dinh., Binh Thanh., HCMC, Vietnam
Telefax: 84.8.8416158
Contact persons: Ms. Ngyuyen Thi Kim Dung and Mr. Tran Thai Hiep

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

HAIN Chairs Public Information and Education Committee of RHAN

The Health Action Information Network was elected this year as the Chair of the Public Information and Education Committee of the Reproductive Health Advocacy Network (RHAN). The Democratic Socialist Women of the Philippines (DSWP) was elected as Secretary-General which was relinquished by the Health Development Initiatives, Inc (HDII).

RHAN is a network of 41 organizations and individuals working on reproductive health issues in the Philippines and was formally organized in 2002.

The other committee chairs elected include LIKHAAN (Linangan ng Kababaihan, Inc.), PNGOC (Philippine NGO Council on Population, Health and Welfare), PILAKK (Pinagsamang Lakas ng Kababaihan at Kabataan), and ZOTO (Zone I Tondo) which will lead the Legal and Policy Advocacy, Networking, Constituency Building, and RHAN Youth Committee, respectively. The 2-year term of the secretary-general and the different committees of RHAN will end in 2010.

The different members of the Public Information and Education Committee includes 13 NGOs namely Woman Health Philippines, Demographic Research and Development Foundation Foundation, Inc. (DRDF), Women’s Media Circle (WMC), PNGOC, PILAKK, LIKHAAN, DSWP, Creative Collective center Inc. (CCCI), Institute for Social Studies and Action (ISSA), Sentro ng Alternatibong Lingap Pangligal (SALIGAN), women’s legal education, Advocacy and Defense Foundation, Inc. (WomenLEAD), and Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP)

Monday, June 23, 2008

A Visit to Marie Stopes in Ho Chi Minh City

Marie Stopes (MS) International is one of the largest international family planning organizations in the world. In 2006 alone, the organization provided nearly five million people in almost 38 countries with high quality health services, including family planning; safe abortion & post-abortion care; maternal & child health care including safe delivery and obstetrics; diagnosis & treatment of sexually transmitted infections; and HIV/AIDS prevention.

In Vietnam, MS was established in 1989 in Hanoi. It offers various services such as family planning; abortion; health screening; HIV/STIs; maternal health; primary health care; social franchising; young people reproductive health. Its primary objective is to increase awareness/availability of quality HIV/AIDS information and Voluntary Confidential Testing (VCT) services and to improve access to quality maternal and child health services.

Entering the building, Marie Stopes (MS) office/clinic in Ho Chi Minh City looks cool, comfy and friendly. It’s something that you would want to stay in at even if going there could stigmatize you because the organization is identified to abortion services (abortion is legal in Vietnam). Enticing too are the multi-colored office walls, the welcoming lounge area, and the interesting design of the filing cabinet.

The lobby of the clinic also has a computer with Internet connection so that companions of the clients will not get bored and still get to be informed while waiting.

There are two MS clinics in Ho Chi Minh City and the one we visited is the newly inaugurated clinic located in District 1 which is about 30 minutes away from the city proper. There are a total of seven MS clinics all over Vietnam. These clinics offer a full range of reproductive health services including family planning and contraceptive methods, general reproductive health checks including breast screening and pap smears, safe abortions and post abortion care, ante-natal check-ups and HIV testing and counseling services.

The five-story MS building has ultrasound room, examination room for Pap smear and prenatal check ups, and an operating room (i.e. safe abortion) which all look clean and safe.

The counseling room is cozy and relaxing for anyone who needs enlightenment of the mind and heart. The staff said they do not get the names of the clients to ensure confidentiality.

On an average day, they receive 20 clients. MS only charges minimum amount to their clients because their operations is being subsidized by funding agencies. This is to make their services affordable to the people and to be competitive with other private clinics. The clinic is open everyday.

Contraceptives are widely available in Vietnam. IUD and pills are the most commonly used contraceptives. MS sells condoms and pills in their clinic at an affordable price.

MS does not sell emergency contraceptive pills in a large scale since the sale of this product is restricted in Vietnam because it is classified as prescription drugs. Clients could buy the emergency contraceptive pill in government clinics and drugstores. A package of emergency contraceptive pills cost about $20 per dose.

While the Catholic Church community in Vietnam also opposes the distribution and use of contraceptives, they do not make much of an influence in government policy when it comes to family planning programs. The Vietnamese government encourages couples to only have two children to curb population growth.

MS also offer telephone hotline for counseling and quick referrals. For instance, they refer their clients from a distant place to other clinics where they can easily avail of RH services.

Abiding by the thrust of Marie Stopes International, the MS in Ho Chi Minh City aims to ensure the widest possible access by providing a range of information and innovative services. Aside from clinical services and contraceptive distribution, they also conduct community education and other advocacy activities. Their projects involve collaboration with different government agencies and private institutions (i.e. Adidas).

by: Joyce P. Valbuena

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Smart Chart Level Up

HAIN recently organized training on advanced strategic communications. Nine participants who have already undergone Smart Chart training were selected to attend this peer learning activity. The training aimed to ensure that reproductive health advocates are not only able to successfully use the Smart Chart but are also able to train their colleagues to use the tool to develop strong communications programs.

Resource Speakers from the Communications Leadership Institute (CLI), a communications firm based in Washington DC, came to the Philippines to help move to the next level the confidence and skills of the Smart Chart participants. The two-day training was designed to support the practitioners and position them for leadership among their peers.

CLI oriented the participants on the version 3.0 of Smart Chart. It was also a venue for the participants to share their experiences in teaching Smart Chart and exchange case studies that could be useful in future training. The participants also learned tips on presentation skills and adapting Smart Chart to local audiences.

Smart Chart is a tool in strategic communications planning. In 2006 and 2007, HAIN has trained about 200 reproductive health advocates with this tool to help them advance their program goals.

The activity is part of HAIN’s ongoing project with the Packard Foundation which aims to promote effective education and advocacy on population and reproductive health issues in the Philippines. The workshop was held at the Meralco Management and Development Center in Antipolo City last June 2 to 3.

In August of this year, CLI will facilitate a three-day regional workshop for the master trainers from each of Packard Foundation’s in-country partner (Philippines, India and Pakistan). The focus of this meeting will be to share experiences using the Smart Chart, as well as lessons learned from trainings of master trainers. The meeting will be structured and facilitated with an emphasis on peer learning and exchange.

Promoting Greater Involvement of People Living with HIV in Ho Chi Minh City

Ho Chi Minh City is the largest city in Vietnam and is located near the Mekong Delta. It is also the center of trade and industry with 82 million total populations. According to the 2007 Family International Report, there is an estimate 72,400 HIV and AIDS cases in the country. With this increasing alarming concern of the epidemic, the United Nations’ Greater Involvement of PLHIV (GIPA) Project under the Ho Chi Minh Women’s Union continues to strengthen its advocacy work and collaboration with local civil society organizations on the prevention and control of HIV and AIDS in the country.

Last May 14, 2008, the Health Action Information Network (HAIN) had an opportunity to learn the initiatives and experiences of GIPA Vietnam. Mr. Enrico Caja, GIPA coordinator and its local counterpart Ms. Nguyen Vu Huong Giang led the presentation and facilitated the open forum. GIPA’s objectives are to increase access to treatment and services; lessen stigma and discrimination towards PLHIVs; increase understanding and support for GIPA; and promote volunteerism and participation among PLHIVs on HIV and AIDS activities. With the help of its international partners like UN Volunteers and Euro-Asia AIDS Cooperation, GIPA performs the following initiatives: provides a venue for PLHIV Interaction, counseling and referral, information sharing through IEC materials and website, capacity building, network and collaboration, advocacy programs, volunteer promotion and organizing support groups of families and PLHIVs.

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