Sixteen percent of MSM (men who have sex with men) in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City have HIV and the community should have improved awareness of preventive measures, experts said at a conference on the issue Wednesday.
“This rate of HIV infection is even higher than among sex workers and only second to injection drug users,” Nguyen Thi Hue of the HCMC AIDS Prevention Committee said.
“Social network is one of the important channels to spread relevant information among MSM who can be provided with accurate information and becoming more confident in using relevant services in preventing HIV infection.”
Promoting the use of social networks is part of a campaign called “My Future, My Choice” launched by USAID and the NGO PATH at the conference.
“USAID is committed to working with MSM to build a sustainable response to HIV in Vietnam,” Mark Breda, senior HIV/AIDS technical advisor at USAID, said.
The campaign aims to promote healthy choices, including safe sex and regular HIV testing among MSM in Vietnam.
Influential community leaders will share personal stories and illustrate the importance of safe sex and regular HIV testing in a discussion of how to live a happy, healthy and successful life.
The campaign will leverage virtual social networks to offer open spaces for MSM to connect and exchange information on HIV prevention and care.
The campaign’s official Facebook page is “Xom Cau Vong” (rainbow neighborhood).
A recent study by Healthy Markets – a five-year USAID initiative seeking to grow a viable commercial market for HIV-related goods and services – found Facebook to be the preferred social media platform used by MSM in Vietnam.
According to USAID, the HIV infection rate among MSM in Vietnam increased from 1.7 percent in 2005 to 3.7 percent in 2013.
But the prevalence is much higher in urban centers, and is estimated to be as high as 16 percent in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.
“It is therefore crucial to engage MSM to ensure the sustainability of HIV response in Vietnam,” Breda said.