New law may allow condoms in Vietnamese guest houses
July 29, 2006
– donny t.
Hanoi (ANTARA News) – Guest houses in Vietnam may be allowed to sell
condoms without fear of prosecution next year under a new law on prevention of AIDS, activists and local media said Friday.
However, the plan is likely to face opposition from police, who said Friday they are against a pilot project distributing condoms to guest houses in one Hanoi district.
Condoms themselves are legal in Vietnam, but police in the communist-run state often use possession of a condom by a woman or a guest house as evidence in prostitution cases, the online newspaper VNExpress reported Friday.
The newspaper quoted Ministry of Health official Nguyen Huy Quang as saying that a new law on HIV/AIDS passed by the National Assembly this year and taking effect on January 1, 2007, will mandate “harm reduction” programmes including distributing condoms to prostitutes and providing clean needles to drug addicts.
“This is the result of a long process of changing the opinion that loosening management over condoms is the same as accepting prostitution,” Quang, who is deputy director of the ministry’s legislation department, told the newspaper.
Especially targeted by the programme will be Vietnam’s many thousands of “nha nghi” – literally meaning “rest houses” – which unlike larger hotels can be rented by the hour, making them popular among young, unmarried couples as well as hideaways for illicit married lovers.
Quang said that preventing sexual transmission of the deadly HIV virus that causes AIDS took precedence over combating prostitution and drug use, which Vietnam terms “social evils.” In the past decade, 10,000 Vietnamese have died of AIDS and more than 100,000 are infected with the virus.
A pilot project to distribute condoms to guest houses in Hanoi’s Long Bien district, approved by the health ministry and run by the anti-AIDS activist group Bright Futures, has made slow progress, VNExpress reported.
“The owners of the guest houses often told us to go away before if we brought condoms to them,” a Bright Futures’ volunteer named Hung told the on-line paper. “They are afraid that I am an undercover policeman.”
In the year since the programme began, however, some 30 guest houses have started selling or giving away condoms, Hung said.
However, police in the district told Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA) that they do not support the pilot programme and warned that condom possession is still grounds for arrest.
“If we find a nha nghi providing condoms to customers, we will crack down on it,” Dinh Van Toan, director of Long Bien district police, said Friday by telephone. (*)
COPYRIGHT © 2006 ANTARA
July 28, 2006