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Microfinance helps HIV business starters

Update: June, 15/2012 - 09:47

HA NOI — About 150 people living with HIV have been able to start-up small businesses thanks to a micro-finance pilot project supported by the US Agency for International Development.

Beneficiaries of the small loans, located in Ha Noi and HCM City as well as Thai Nguyen and Nghe An provinces, received support in mid-2011. Funds under the project totalled nearly VND2 billion (US$97,560) in loans from the Viet Nam Bank for Social Policies (VBSP) and the TYM Fund under the Viet Nam Women's Union.

As of May this year, most of the borrowers had already repaid their loans, proving that the lending model was effective in assisting HIV carriers and those at risk to integrate into society, said experts at a meeting to review the pilot project yesterday.

"We now have an opportunity to increase access to micro-credit for all qualified individuals and to help eliminate the stigma and discrimination when loan making decisions are made," said Jonathan Ross, director of USAID Viet Nam's Office of Health.

Nancy Natilson, a micro-finance consultant with Chemonics International, said that similar micro-finance models have helped HIV carriers and at-risk groups in many countries escaping from poverty and discrimination, such as in Haiti, Kenya and Cambodia.

The pilot project in Viet Nam has also improved borrowers' lives and made them become more economically independent, thus gaining trust from family and community members, she said.

Tran Van Lanh, one of the recipients of the project in HCM City, was able to start his own cleaning service after borrowing VND20 million (nearly $1,000).

However, for similar models to be replicated in Viet Nam, Natilson said there's a need for more co-ordinated efforts among micro-finance institutions and AIDS support organisations, in addition to further support from the Government.

About $1 million was also pledged by various partners at yesterday's meeting, and these funds are earmarked for new loans through the TYM Fund for the 2011-15 period. — VNS

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