From the Family Planning to HIV/AIDS in Vietnam: Shifting priorities, Remaining Gaps


Sex politics – Reports from the front lines is the outcome of a project launched by Sexuality policy Watch (SWP) in 2004: a transnational, cross cultural research initiative to capture some dynamic of sexual politics in our time. Research was performed in eight countries, including Vietnam and two global institutions, the United Nations and the World Bank. Research in Vietnam. Research in Vietnam explored the shift in social and health priorities from family planning to HIV/AIDS and was conducted in April, 2008.

To evaluate the following questions:
    Whether there has been a shift in social and health priorities from family planning to HIV/AIDS?
    How and why this shift has occurred and what are some of the factors that have shaped this trend?
    Which of its characteristics should Vietnam take into account moving forward?

This research used qualitative method, in combining with the literature review of available related documents. The research reviewed information on population and family planning and HIV/AIDS from four national newspapers between 1961 and 2004: Nhan Dan, Phu Nu Viet Nam, Thanh Nien and Vietnam News; and reviewed the legal documents on these matters as well as in depth interviewed with the managers and leaderships of the program on population/family planning and HIV/AIDS in Vietnam.

In the early 1990s, while the development of population and family planning was a social and health priority, the HIV/AIDS epidemic rapidly increased in Vietnam. This caused a shift in social and health priorities from family planning to HIV/AIDS.  Evidences of the shift were showed through the fact that media coverage and donor funding for HIV/AIDS have increased disproportionately as compared to media coverage and funding for family planning program. Such issues resulted largely from the conflict between the perceived need to protect the imagined “general public” and the increasingly acknowledged importance of protecting the rights and interests of those who are infected and affected by the virus and disproportionately from the bottom ranks of the society

Even though HIV/AIDS has emerged as a new social and public health priority, the findings showed family planning remains relevant to the various actors in the country as both a social and health priority. More importantly, this incomplete shift has signaled more continuity than discontinuity as some key issues that underlined family-planning programs have continued to haunt HIV/AIDS programs.

The research also showed two major gaps that have undermined both programs: one is lack of a strong civil society that could have served as advocates for change, especially outside of the government and the donor community. Another is the interest in regulating women’s reproductive health and sexuality to meet the country’s development goals.

Family planning and HIV/AIDS are not simply as two distinctive public-health programs, but rather as two paradigms in approaching and controlling reproductive and sexual health and rights. Seen in this way, as Vietnam moves from one end of the continuum to another, the struggle to break this continuum and the underlying dynamics that have maintained it has added significance. In the context of national and global transformations, where diversity and heterogeneity is the norm, we believe that breaking this continuity will best benefit the development of Vietnam.

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