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City offers college training in treating substance abuse

Update: November, 25/2014 - 08:48
A nurse checks an HIV patient. The HIV-Addiction Technology Transfer Centre in HCM City offers mental health services focusing on drug use, harm-reduction practices and HIV prevention. — VNA/VNS Photo Duong Ngoc

HCM CITY (VNS) — An HIV-Addiction Technology Transfer Centre on the campus of the HCM City University of Medicine and Pharmacy will offer workforce training and technical assistance in treating substance abuse.

The centre will offer mental health services related to drug use and harm-reduction knowledge and skills, in addition to HIV-prevention activities.

The centre is funded by the US Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration via the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief initiative (PEPFAR) and a co-operative agreement with the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA).

The centre aims to contribute to the policy of the government and Ministry of Health to offer methadone treatment for opioid users, Do Van Dung, vice rector of the HCM City University of Medicine and Pharmacy, said.

"With methadone treatment we can reduce the risk of HIV transmission and decrease social evils," Dung said.

In the future, VH-ATTC will work with international and domestic researchers on the development of effective treatments.

A similar centre also was set up in Ha Noi Medical University in 2011.

According to the Ministry of Health, more people in big cities are using amphetamine-type stimulants, such as crystal methamphetamine, ecstasy (MDMA) and ketamine, all of which have long-term harmful effects on people's health.

As of June, the country had 219,163 people with HIV and 67,557 with AIDS.

Despite a significant increase of HIV infection through sex, unsafe injections of drugs remain remains the driver of the HIV epidemic.

Almost 40 per cent of people living with HIV inject drugs. Many others who have HIV are partners of these users.

From mid-1990, the country has carried out intervention models, including community-based and institution-based detoxification, distribution and exchange of clean syringes, and methadone treatment for opoid dependence.

In 2008, two pilot sites in Hai Phong and HCM City were launched. There are now 94 methadone treatment centres for 16,500 addicts in the country.

The Ministry of Health aims to treat by 2015 more than 80,000 heroin addicts with methadone at over 200 health clinics nationwide.

The Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs is opening community-based centres for voluntary treatment.

One challenge is to ensure a high quality of workers who can meet the technical requirements of the job, and who have essential expertise in their field and study in continuing education.

In the past, the Ministry of Health, in collaboration with PEPFAR, Global Fund and the World Bank, through organizations such as FHI360 and SCMS, organized methadone maintenance treatment training courses that helped meet programme needs.

However, this needs to be strengthened because of the number of addicts who need methadone, Dung said.

There should be a wider involvement of psychiatric hospitals and academic institutions such as the HIV-Addiction Technology Transfer Centres, he added. — VNS

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