Hai Phong, 28 March 2014 – Since Viet Nam attained the middle income country status in 2010, the supply of male condom to the country has been dramatically changed. It is estimated that international aid and government resources for condoms accounted only 15 per cent, while 85 per cent of condom need is covered by the free market through uncontrolled importing distribution channel. This issue was discussed at the National Meeting of the Condom Coordination Committee and Technical Working Group held today in Do Son, Hai Phong, by the Ministry of Health (MOH) and the United Nation Population Fund in Viet Nam (UNFPA).
Viet Nam has successfully contained the HIV epidemic at the concentrated stage, with HIV prevalence now below 0.3 per cent within the general population. However, HIV prevalence among street-based sex workers is high in the major cities: 20 per cent in Ha Noi, 23 per cent in Hai Phong and 16 per cent in Ho Chi Minh City.
Condom is a cost effective device for dual protection: prevent unwanted pregnancies and preventions of HIV and other Sexually Transmitted Infections. Currently, Viet Nam has not had any official mechanism for quality assurance of condom in the free market. Data from the recent assessment on quality of condoms in the free market of Viet Nam by Crown Agent shows that 47 per cent of condoms from the wholesalers is in poor quality, while this rate in Ho Chi Minh city is 36 per cent. The poor quality rate in the retailer pharmacy is 23 per cent in Ha Noi and 21 per cent in Ho Chi Minh city.
Addressing the meeting, Vice Minister of Health Dr. Nguyen Viet Tien noted: "This meeting is an opportunity for us to discuss on the quality of condom in the free market as well as the roles and responsibilities of the Government' agencies on this issue. We also need develop a roadmap and plan implementation on how to manage the quality of condoms in the free market".
Comprehensive Condom Programming is a comprehensive and broad framework, involving multiple actions and a series of interventions to address all aspects of condoms, from production, importation to transportation, distribution, from sales, logistics works to quality control, and monitoring of condom use and behaviour of end-users. The process also encourages coordination and collaboration among condom suppliers and social marketing planners. "Effectively responding to the quality of condoms in the free market in Vietnam poses a huge challenge that requires multi-sectoral collaboration among concerned government bodies, national and international organisations. UNFPA will continue to work closely with development partners to support the MOH and other line ministries to ensure the availability, accessibility and quality of condoms," emphasized Mr. Arthur Erken, UNFPA Representative in Viet Nam. Mr. Erken also suggested participants to come up with an affirmative action plan for the development of national standards and technical specifications for condom and a practical quality assurance mechanism to ensure quality of condoms in the free market.