Sex workers project Vietnam

Outreach workers hand out condoms to sex workers in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo by Ehrin Macksey for Aidsfonds

We believe that the end of AIDS is possible if there is more focus on key populations. Our project in Vietnam addresses barriers faced by the sex workers community related to their sexual and reproductive health and rights. Driven by community champions, we work to realize an organised sex worker movement that works together with the government in the national HIV response; reduced violence; and increased access to quality and comprehensive services.

Sex work, criminalisation and vulnerability to HIV

Vietnam is a middle-income country of 90.5 million people. There are 227,154 people living with HIV in Vietnam. The HIV prevalence among the general population is low. The epidemic increased rapidly among key populations including sex workers. In Vietnamese society sex work is seen as a ‘social evil’. Sex workers face stigma and discrimination from health service providers, which is a major barrier for accessing appropriate sexual and reproductive health services. Unsafe working conditions further increase sex workers’ vulnerability to HIV. Until recently, thousands of sex workers were arrested and sent to detention centres.  However, under the revised Law on Administrative Sanctions which took effect in July 2013, sex workers will no longer be sent to compulsory centres but will instead be subject to fines of up to VND5 million (US$240). Although sex work remains illegal, the reforms have lessened the economic and psychological burden on sex workers.

The overall HIV prevalence for HIV amongst FSW has been declining since 2002, and according to HSS was just 2.7% in 2015. However, there are regional disparities. Data from three rounds of IBBS shows that in 2013 HIV prevalence amongst FSW exceeded 10% in Hanoi, Hai Phong, Can Tho, and HCMC.

Sex workers claim a right-based HIV and SRHR response

Bridging the Gaps works with a Theory of Change approach. A Theory of Change is a description of a list of events that is expected to lead to a particular desired outcome. It is a visualization how change is believed to happen. In 2016, representatives of the sex worker community developed a that consists of short-,medium, and long term outcomes. The Theory of Change describes how we plan to realize an organised sex worker movement that works together with the government in the national HIV response; reduced violence; and increased access to quality and comprehensive services.

Through innovation and by building on previous work, we will strengthen civil society organisations’ ability to:

1. We facilitate community development

  • Conducting organizational capacity scans with sex worker-led organisations;
  • Building the capacity of sex worker-led organisations.

2. We advocate for the continuously strengthening of services and upholding human rights

  • Documenting effectiveness of the SW CBO model when promoting the role of SW CBOs in supporting interventions for sex workers to decrease HIV/AIDS in Vietnam;
  • Designing and conducting a survey on the violence experienced by sex workers;
  • Educating community members on human rights and the law;

3.Deliver inclusive, rights-based and gender sensitive services

  • Providing technical and financial support to build material infrastructure and implement harm reduction activities for sex worker groups;
  • Running a SRHR clinic for key populations.

4. Foster global and in-country processes and partnerships that reinforce results

  • Facilitating National-level Participation

Our partners

Our project builds on the strong advocacy work of our partners SCDI and VNSW to put sex workers’ health issues on the political agenda and get them included in national plans. Their work is internationally supported by Aidsfonds.

Our other project in Vietnam

We also have a LGBT people project in Vietnam.