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More than 50 senior representatives from government, NGOs, the Communist Party, and donor groups attended a national leadership seminar in Hanoi, launching the Vietnam AIDS Public Policy Training Project, a partnership between the Kennedy School of Government, the Ho Chi Minh National Political Academy, and the POLICY Project Vietnam.
“The course is designed to help policymakers better understand and respond to the root causes of the epidemic, such as poverty and inequity, and to develop effective multi-sectoral strategies that protect human rights and involve affected individuals and communities,” says Lisa Messersmith, director of the Vietnam AIDS Public Policy Training Project at the Kennedy School of Government.
In addition to the leadership seminar, faculty from the United States and Vietnam taught a five-day training course to over 40 Academy faculty and senior policy makers from Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. The AIDS Public Policy Training Project has convened a faculty of international AIDS experts from the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard School of Public Health, Harvard Medical School, Boston University School of Public Health and Abt Associates.
The Ministry of Health in Vietnam estimates that the number of people currently living with HIV in the country is more than 250,000 and that the number of new infections is sharply increasing each year. While the epidemic has been concentrated among injecting drug users, there is evidence of increasing sexual transmission and the emergence of a generalizing epidemic in some provinces.
The project aims to strengthen the capacity of central and local policy makers to implement rights-based and multi-sectoral responses to AIDS in Vietnam. Project partners plan three regional trainings this year in which senior provincial-level leaders from the Party and various government ministries will participate.
The Vietnam project, part of the AIDS Public Policy Training Project based at the Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government’s Asia Programs, has been training government officials in Asia since 2003 to aggressively confront the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Building on last year’s senior level training course on AIDS for Chinese provincial government officials, this first training in Vietnam expands the impact and reach of the AIDS Public Policy Training Project.
"The similarities between China and Vietnam's Party-led political system have made the adaptation and expansion of the training program relatively easy,” says Joan Kaufman, director of the AIDS Public Policy Training Project at the Kennedy School. “However, the governance and public policy issues we address are relevant to all countries facing the AIDS epidemic. Our plan for the coming year in China is to focus on the role of NGOs in the AIDS response, to open greater political space for civil society actors in a constrained political environment.”