The Social Environment of IDUs in Hanoi (Vietnam)
Serge Doussantousse, Vietnam; Hoa T Nguyen, Vietnam; Peter Higgs, Australia
Objectives: Improve the understanding of the life and environment of injecting drug users in Hanoi.
Methodology: Semistructured in depth interviews were conducted with 33 IDUs recruited using
snowball techniques. The data collected included demographic characteristics, history of drug use,
routes of administration, risktaking behaviours, and access to HIV screening, incarceration and
detoxification/treatment experiences. Research was sponsored by UNAIDS and UNDCP and
Results: The sample was mainly male (78%). Average age: 27 years [range 18 48] Average age at
first opiate use 21years [range 12 42]. Average age at first injection was 23 years [range 14 47]. A
majority were single at time of interview. Most respondents (twentyfour, 72%) started using opiates
in the past five years and over 80% began injecting within the past three years. The majority were
using heroin and black opium at the time of interview but other drugs also used including
pharmaceutical drugs such as Diazepam, Promethazine, Pethidine, Morphine, Phenobarbital, Opiroic
and Procaine were mentioned. The mean number of times a day respondents were using was 2.4
times [range 05], injecting on average at a cost of US$6.3 per day. Most had completed only 9 years
of schooling [range 5 16 years]. About half the sample (16 participants) acknowledged needle
sharing; almost all have recently witnessed other users sharing needles. 42 % (14 participants) have
ever been to prison or a compulsory detoxification centre and 60% (20 participants) have had a
previous HIV test 15% (5 participants) reported being HIV positive 85% (28 participants) had ever
experienced detoxification (range 18 times) with 89% of them doing so at home.
Conclusions: HIV is evident and knowledge of it is well established among users. The users know the
risk of HIV through sharing needles.
Heroin use is a recent phenomenon it appeared in Hanoi around the years 199495.
Access to clean injecting equipment has greatly increased and reduced but not eliminated needle
sharing. Lovers and trusted friends are still sharing needles among themselves especially when the
equipment is not accessible especially late at night time and in non urban areas.
The age at which people are using is decreasing and detoxification is utilized as a way for users to
manage their drug consumption and escape from legal and family problems rather than to stop using
The police campaigns do not prevent users from injecting but makes their individual injecting
practices more hazardous.
The family has a role to play in the detection, detoxification and the support of the user. Vietnamese
families are suffering the burden of their child's addiction and as a result they need help to understand
and to look after their children. Users' families need more information and support to prevent
discrimination of their HIV infected family member.
Women injecting drugs are working as sex workers often before their initiation to drug use. Young
women have to be included in the harm reduction campaigns.
Social based research has a place in achieving a better understanding of the life experiences of drug
users in Vietnam. It will also help to develop better educational materials and ongoing relationships
with such a marginalised group.