|Since 2011, the methadone programme has reached 1,400 people, just 15 per cent of registered addicts in the province. — Photo tienphong
DIEN BIEN (VNS) — It was about 10am at the Muong Cha Commune clinic. A man entered the clinic and came out with a dosage of methadone.
Stopping his bike on the side of the road, Sung A Dung, 41, said he had to get up at 6am to drive to this clinic, more than 50 km from his home in Lang Dung Village.
While the medicine is free, he still has to pay for gas and spend the entire morning driving.
"I used to be a drug addict. All I could think about was how to get a quick fix. There was no room to think about anything else, let alone ways to make a living," Dung said.
More than a year ago, staff from the local clinic convinced Dung to use methadone to treat his drug addiction.
"I feel much better now, both physically and mentally. I was able to go back to work and help my family," he said in a cheerful voice.
Out of bounds
There are 9,500 registered drug addicts in the province, according to the Dien Bien Provincial HIV/AIDS Prevention Centre. However, many former addicts are unable to get their hands on methadone because of limitations in the local distribution programme.
Only 77 out of 350 registered addicts in Muong Cha Commune are receiving their treatment because only commune-level clinics are authorised to distribute the treatment. Many addicts who live in isolated areas of the province find it difficult and inconvenient to travel such a great distance every day.
Doctor Vu Thi Chau Lai, head of Na Sang Ward in Muong Cha said methadone would reach more addicts if it were brought to smaller, ward-level clinics.
"Not only will it save them money on gas, it will be closer to where they live. More people will be able to receive the treatment," she said.
Muong Cha residents are fortunate compared to those living in other communes in the province, who don't even have a clinic authorised to distribute Methadone.
Hoang Dinh Canh, deputy head of the Department for HIV/AIDS Prevention, said resources were scarce at public health agencies, making it hard to fund isolated mountainous areas such as Dien Bien.
"We should increase the number of clinics distributing methadone. Ward-level clinics should be authorised as well. It's the only way we can reach more people and help them stay with the programme," Canh said.
Since 2011, the methadone programme has reached 1,400 people, just 15 per cent of registered addicts in the province. — VNS