|Barbers cum HIV/AIDS activists provide give out leaflets and free condoms to customers. Community-based interventions are proving effective, experts say — VNA/VNS Photo Duong Ngoc.
HCM CITY (VNS) — A 21-year-old man from the Mekong Delta province of Vinh Long reluctantly left his family to move to HCM City after his parents discovered that he was gay.
In the city, he became a male prostitute. Since then, he says: "I seem to have fallen into hell."
One day, he met a man who belonged to one of the city's 14 community-based organisations supervised by the LIFE organisation under the Viet Nam Union of Science and Technology Association.
The member of the M for M group gave him a condom and told him that he should receive free HIV testing at the consulting centre.
At first, he was very angry but later he decided to visit the centre for the test.
"I was shocked to discover when I tested positive for HIV. I felt overwhelmed and fearful. Why me?" he said.
He called the member, who told him to go to an HIV outpatient care and treatment clinic in the city. The man also taught him how to prevent HIV transmission.
Now that he has had treatment, the Vinh Long native feels that being HIV-positive is not a death sentence.
"My life started again when I joined the M for M group," he said.
Nguyen Van Hoang, another member of M for M, said the group's members used many methods, including social networks to access gay men and other men who have sex with men (MSM) to spread knowledge of HIV-transmission prevention and provide condoms.
They also work with medical facilities, with assistance from the city's AIDS Prevention Centre, to treat MSM or gays with HIV, and with local authorities to enhance prevention activities in the community.
This year, the group accessed 1,247 MSM and gays. Of them, 538 were sent to the city's free HIV testing and consulting centre, he said.
Community-based organisations help people with HIV, drug addicts and MSM, said Do Quang Khang, manager of a project carried out by the LIFE organisation in the southern region.
Dr Tran Van Phuong, deputy head of the city AIDS Prevention Committee's HIV/AIDS treatment and care division, said there was a shortage of foreign aid to carry out HIV prevention programmes.
The community-based organisations of the LIFE project are vital in assisting HIV-prevention programmes of the state, such as the committee, he added.
Thanks to these organisations, visits by people with a high risk of contracting HIV to HIV testing and consulting centres and HIV outpatient care and treatment clinics increased five times this year compared to last year. — VNS