Aquaculture for all

HIV/AIDS: Growing Threat to Viet Nam's Fish Farmers


VIET NAM It is estimated that 58,000 people working in the fishery sector will be infected with HIV/AIDS by 2013, a significant jump up of 26,000 cases from the current estimated level.

This alarming figure comes from a recent HIV prevalence survey in fishery sector carried out by the Vietnamese Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD).

The survey and subsequent report to estimate HIV/AIDS prevalence was conducted as part of the programme Strengthening of Fisheries Administration (STOFA), supported by the Danish International Development Agency.

This is the first survey to estimate HIV/AIDS prevalence among fishery workers in the country. Carried out in five provinces selected because they were representative for geographical and fishery occupational characteristics, the survey involved 2,350 voluntary participants of four groups - exploitation, processing, cultivation and provision, of which 14 people admitted they had tested positive for HIV/AIDS.

Using the findings, research members applied the Means of Transmission Model, which has been applied effectively in other countries, and estimated that the current number of fishery workers with HIV/AIDS in Viet Nam is 32,000, accounting for 0.59 per cent of the total number of the country’s fisheries workers.

According to statistics from the Viet Nam Administration for HIV/AIDS Control, as of August 2008, there were 132,048 people living with HIV/AIDS in the country.

"The alarming situation is caused by lack of attention on HIV/AIDS risk among fishery workers. Departments of fisheries seem to care more for annual targets than providing information on HIV/AIDS to people working in this field," said Do Thanh Nam, team leader of the survey.

Lack of knowledge is considered the main reason for HIV/AIDS prevalence among fishery workers, according to an additional survey STOFA had conducted simultaneously across nine provinces with 3,400 participants.

According to Le Thi Mong Phuong, team leader of the second survey, fishery workers have lack of knowledge, and there is insufficient and unsystematic distribution of information on the disease.

"Most of them learn about HIV/AIDS from television or radio, but rarely and irregularly," she said.

The lack of knowledge is apparent with 14.4 per cent of the participants having thought that HIV can be transmitted through mosquitoes and sharing tools with people living with AIDS, and with 6.4 per cent having said they could get infected if hugging and kissing those infected. Another alarming statistic was that 15.8 per cent said having sex with sex workers without using a condom causes no risk for contracting HIV/AIDS.

"We all know about the growth rate of Viet Nam’s aquaculture sector in recent years. However, the HIV/AIDS epidemics can threaten this success, because poor families will be forced to spend money for treatment. Moreover, the disease can take the lives of primary labourers in families and push these back into poverty," said Danish Ambassador Peter Lysholt Hansen.

Thus, the survey is of great importance in providing evidence to develop HIV/AIDS prevention and control strategies in the fishery sector and to develop, according to deputy minister of MARD, Vu Van Tam.

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