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Ho Chi Minh City

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Vietnam / Southeast Vietnam / Ho Chi Minh City
Vista de Ciudad Ho Chi Minh desde Bitexco Financial Tower, Vietnam, 2013-08-14, DD 13.JPG

OVERVIEW

As the largest city in Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City has many women's health resources. Contraceptives, including emergency contraceptives, are legal and do not require a prescription. There are a plethora of pharmacies throughout the city though you may struggle to find certain international brands. Since the 1960s, the North Vietnamese government has advocated family planning -- and, after reunification in 1975, family planning policies extended throughout the country. There is a 2-child policy that has remained in place for decades, although this policy seems to be on its way out. Nowadays in Vietnam, you can get STI tests at many hospitals and clinics. However, if you're a foreigner or don't speak Vietnamese, it's recommended that you visit an international facility (list of such facilities below). You can find both pads and tampons, typically without applicators (like OB), at many markets and stores. Furthermore, abortion is fully legal for up to 22 weeks of pregnancy, and there are no known restrictions related to age or reasons. Due to its high prevalence, Vietnam has been called the "abortion capital" of Asia, a title that has also been given to China. You will find that both surgical and medical abortion options are available, and there are many resources, including international organizations like Marie Stopes, that can help you identify the appropriate resources.

Contraception (Birth Control)[edit]

Laws & Social Stigmas[edit]

Birth control pills and condoms are legal and widely accessible in Vietnam. No prescription is required. It is estimated that 73%-75% of Vietnamese women (of reproductive age) use some form of birth control.[1] Typically, you'll be able to find oral contraceptive pills), IUDs, injectables (Depo Provera) and Implanon. The most commonly used forms of modern contraceptives tend to be IUDs and condoms. However, it is estimated that approximately 54% of Vietnamese women use modern methods of birth control; the remaining percentage use older methods, like withdrawal, the rhythm method or periodic abstinence.[2]

Since 1963, Vietnam has had some form of population control. This began under the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam), when the government advocated capping families at two to three children. After reunification of Vietnam in 1975 under the communist government, family planning policies extended throughout the country. Ultimately, a 2-Child Policy was implemented in 1983. During the 1980s, the Vietnamese government provides incentives for those who followed the policy, like contraceptive availability, and those who do not, like enforcing penalties. The government also took cue from the Chinese government's stance by encouraging its citizens to get married later and to space out children 3-5 years apart. This policy is currently being reconsidered but seems to remain in place.[3]

Despite widespread contraceptive use in Vietnam, there is limited knowledge of all methods. According to one study in the late 1990s: "Several contraceptive methods, such as the pill and the condom, are not widely used even in urban areas, where they are easily obtainable. A study on oral contraceptives in Vietnam indicated that the major reason women who had used modern contraceptive methods had never used the pill was that they did not know about the method.8 If this lack of information is the result of the strong campaigns conducted in Vietnam in the 1980s to promote IUD use and in the mid-1990s to promote sterilization, contraceptive use depends not only on availability but also on the intensity of promotion. Thus, along with availability of contraceptives, access to information on individual methods could reduce the bias in Vietnam toward urban areas and toward IUD and traditional contraceptive use."[4]

What to Get & Where to Get It[edit]

Spermicide found in Vietnam pharmacy

You can buy birth control at the many pharmacies (called "nha thuoc") throughout Hanoi. The word for birth control is Vietnamese is "thuốc tránh thai" (how to pronounce it: thwork chanh tide). Some of the reported brands include HN Choice, Rigevidon, Marvelon, Microgynon. Spermicide is also sold under the brand as 'VCF.' There are also many generic or Vietnamese versions of brands in Hanoi pharmacies, and most medications appear to be made in Vietnam or India. If you want specialized brands that are not found in most pharmacies, here's a list of pharmacies that have wider selection:

For Depo, it's reported that the Hanoi Family Program does it for 300,000 dong. Supposedly, the French Vietnamese hospital does it for 7 million dong.

Costs[edit]

Emergency Contraception (Morning After Pill)[edit]

Laws & Social Stigmas[edit]

In Vietnam, emergency contraception is available directly from pharmacists without a prescription. There appears to be no age restrictions. However, if you want to purchase certain EC brands, like ella, Ciel EC and Mifestad 10 you may need a prescription.[5]

What to Get & Where to Get It[edit]

aseVictoria - an emergency contraceptive that can be purchased in Hanoi

You can buy emergency contraception for 45,000 dong (less than $2 as of 2016) in any pharmacy. One popular brand is Victoria. Below, we have listed the main brands and types of EC available in Vietnam:[6]

Dedicated Products / Anti-Progestin Take 1 pill within 120 hours after unprotected sex:

  • Ciel EC (this is only available in Vietnam, so it seems to be a Vietnamese brand)
  • Mifestad 10 (this appears to be a Vietnamese brand)

Dedicated Products / Progestin Only Take 1 pill within 120 hours after unprotected sex:

  • Escapelle

Take 2 pills within 120 hours after unprotected sex:

Oral Contraceptives used for EC / Progestin-Estrogen Combined Note: in 28-day packs, only the first 21 pills can be used Take 2 pills within 120 hours after unprotected sex and take 2 more pills 12 hours later:

  • FMP

Take 4 pills within 120 hours after unprotected sex and take 4 more pills 12 hours later:

  • Anna
  • Microgynon-30
  • Nordette
  • Rigevidon

Costs[edit]

Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs/STDs)[edit]

Important Notes - Learn about PEP and PrEP: If you think that you've been recently exposed to HIV (i.e. within 72 hours), seek out PEP (Post-Exposure Prophylaxis). It's a month-long treatment to prevent HIV infection after exposure, and it may be available in your city. Take PEP as soon as possible. For more information, click here. If you are at risk of HIV exposure, seek out PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis). It's a daily oral pill that can prevent HIV infection before exposure. To learn more about PrEP, click here.

Laws & Social Stigmas[edit]

Note: "There is a decree requiring HIV positives to report to the immigration officer. However, the ordinance is not applied. None of my friends have ever declared their condition. Therefore, we don't know what would happen if somebody would actually do it!"[7]

There are no known travel restrictions or requirements attached to any STI, including HIV, in Vietnam. For foreigners seeking work, especially teaching, there are some reports of schools asking for health checks. However, health checks are not required by authorities in order to receive a work permit.

Regarding HPV, Vietnam has a vaccination pilot program in place.

There is no PrEP in Vietnam but there appears to be PEP.

In Vietnam, HIV testing began in 1988.[8] The first reported positive result came in 1990. Throughout the 1990s, HIV rates began to raise. Although infection rates in Vietnam were low overall, the female sex worker (FSW) and injection drug user (IDU) communities began to experience substantially increased infection rates. In 2002, a study of 400 female sex workers (FSW) in Hanoi found that 12% were HIV+ and 17% were infected syphilis, 3.8% with chlamydia and 6.3% with gonorrhea. The study concluded: "Vietnam is in a critical period. HIV is spreading rapidly among the risk groups, but the country can prevent a widespread epidemic if it acts quickly. The country must take the opportunity to act wisely and to make sound decisions. Strategies to reduce HIV in FSWs should include reduction of stigmatization, reduction of sharing drug paraphernalia, promotion of nonstigmatizing voluntary counseling and testing, and aggressive marketing and promotion of condoms. To achieve these goals, the government should adopt a multisectoral response that includes other government agencies, nongovernment organizations, and the vulnerable populations."[9]

For people living with HIV in Vietnam, lack of government funding and social stigma are harsh realities. The majority of HIV/AIDS program funding (70%) comes from international organizations with only about 13% coming from the Vietnamese government. There is also a shortage of health workers with only 1300 in 2011. And there is also social stigma. "Social stigma against HIV/AIDS patients presents a major obstacle to contain HIV/AIDS. HIV/AIDS patients are treated unequally in the hospitals and denied employment. Children with HIV are not welcomed in school. In 2009, parents in Ho Chi Minh City forced officials to expel children with HIV.[9] Discrimination thus discourages people to go for screening or to take medication in fear of revealing their HIV status."[10]

What to Get & Where to Get It[edit]

Testing Facilities[edit]

  • AHF District 11, HCMC Clinic: This clinic is included in the AIDS Healthcare Foundation Global Directory, so they should either provide HIV tests or be able to direct you to a clinic that does. Address: Center for Community Support Counselling, District 11 Health Center, No 72, Road #5, Binh Thoi Living Quarter, District 11 Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Phone: (+84) 839625995
  • AHF Cu Chi District, HCMC Clinic: This clinic is included in the AIDS Healthcare Foundation Global Directory, so they should either provide HIV tests or be able to direct you to a clinic that does. Address: Center for Community Support Counselling, Tan Thanh Tay Health Center, Hamlet 2, Alley 8, Tan Thanh Tay Commune, Cu Chi District, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Phone: (+84) 837956805

Support[edit]

There are no known specific or appropriate HIV treatment centers in Vietnam. But here are some resources in HCMC:

  • Ford Foundation: Phone: 976 0164 , Fax: 976 0163 , E-mail: l.messersmith@fordfound.org, Contact person: Lisa Messersmith (Programme Officer)
  • NGO Resource Centre: Phone: 832 8570, Fax: 832 8611, E-mail: NGOCentr@netnam.org.vn, Contact person: Michelle Brown (Co-Director)
  • Ho Chi Minh City AIDS Committee: 4b Ngo Van Nam - Q1, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, Phone +84 8 822 6675, Contact person: Jamie Uhrig (freelance consultant) , E-mail: jamie@hcmc.netnam.vn
  • Family Health International (FHI): Works to strengthen governmental response to HIV/AIDS, expand prevention and education programs and support community-based care for people living with HIV/AIDS.
  • Institute for Social Development Studies (ISDS): Conducts research, advocacy, information dissemination efforts and trainings in gender, sexuality, social development and health.

Important Note: Avoid self-diagnosing or seeking treatment (before diagnosis) at a pharmacy. According to one study: "Even though 74% (51 of 69) of pharmacists and drug sellers know that they should not treat STD patients, in fact 84% (250 of 297) did treat. When they did treat, no one gave the correct combination of drugs for treatment by the syndromic approach, as only 12% (36 of 297) gave tetracycline or doxycycline, and of those who sold them no one gave them for a sufficient number of days. Quinolones were by far the most common drug given but are not recommended by the Vietnam Institute of Venereology..."[11]

Costs[edit]

Medications & Vaccines[edit]

Pharmacy in Hue, Vietnam

Laws & Social Stigmas[edit]

For a long time, Vietnam (along with many other Southeast Asian countries) was known as place where you could buy virtually any medication or antibiotic over the counter. In Vietnam, this is no longer the case. Antibiotics and stronger medications are more strictly regulated at pharmacies. However, you will still find some pharmacies that are more lenient in their sales. Remember that some pharmacies focus on "herbal" or traditional medicine, meaning that they do not carry modern pharmaceutical products. Other pharmacies do carry modern products, but they may sell medications that are inauthentic (i.e. incorrect or sugar-pill like medicine) or expired. Try to visit pharmacies that you know or trust, or that someone who has experience in a Vietnamese city recommends. Overall, Vietnamese pharmacists speak very little English. So it is recommended to know that name of the medication you need in advance or to bring a translation device.

Note: While this is an unverified, a Hanoi pharmacist has told us that yeast infections in Vietnam are fairly common due to the low-quality tap water. When women wash or douche themselves with the water, they may develop yeast infections. While this cannot be entirely avoided, it's something to remember.

What to Get & Where to Get It[edit]

Canesten - yeast infection medication, which requires that you insert pills vaginally
  • If you have a yeast infection, try to say "Nhiễm nấm âm đạo" (can someone confirm if this is correct?). If you go to a pharmacy, you can ask for "Canesten." This is basically the Asian version of Monistat. Note that you may receive a pill version, which means you have to insert pills into your vagina through an insertion device. The pills need to actually dissolve inside of you and, if they're clumpy at all, the pills may not work. So the pharmacists may also recommend that you buy some sort of vaginal lubricant/cleaner that will help dissolve and clean out the pills.
  • If you have a urinary tract infection (UTI), you can try to say "nhiễm trùng đường tiết niệu," though we're not sure if this is accurate (can someone confirm?). If you go to a pharmacy, you may be given Midasol. But first confirm that you have a UTI before you proceed with medication.
  • Note that there are no known PrEP trials in Vietnam.
  • There is supposedly access to PEP in Vietnam. Contact hospitals for details.

Costs[edit]

Menstruation[edit]

Laws & Social Stigmas[edit]

What to Get & Where to Get It[edit]

  • You should be able to find pads and tampons without applicators (e.g. OB) at many stores in HCMC. In mini-markets, like VinMart, you'll definitely be able to find pads. At Circle K (mini-market chain), there seems to be non-applicator tampons (Tampax and Helen Harper).
  • If you want a wider selection of tampons, it's recommended to check out grocery stores or larger convenience stores.
  • As a warning, some (not all) tampons in Vietnam may be scented -- so check the labeling if you want scent-free.
  • If you're interested in menstrual cups, here are some resources to check out in Vietnam:
    • Lintimate is a social enterprise that officially distributes US-made FDA-approved menstrual cups (otherwise known as cốc nguyệt san in Vietnamese) under their flagship brand - Lincup. This is the only menstrual cup distributor that qualifies to enter pharmacies in Vietnam. They have a 24/7 hotline with english speaking operator: 091 151 2091 and can also be contacted via Lintimate's official Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/lintimate. Email: info@lintimate.net
    • Meluna Vietnam: They sell Meluna menstrual cups for 590,000 VND with free shipping (as of Feb 2017). You should contact them via Facebook for details or call 090 482 28 83. They're very responsive to messages.
    • Si-bell cup (soft cup from France - official retailer), get 2 free sterilising tablets. HOTLINE: 090 208 3098.
    • Lunette cup (semi hard cup from Finland-offical retailer): "I went to their company to see the cup and asked few questions, they seemed really professional about everything. They also gave me 2 free cup wipes." Công ty TNHH MTV Thương mại và Dịch vụ Hoàng Gia, Address: Tầng 1, tòa nhà Ocean Park Building, số 1 Đào Duy Anh, Đống Đa, Hà Nội. (Thứ 2 - 6: 8h30 - 16h30)., Hotline: 0904399599, Email: info@hoanggiatns.vn
    • Coc Nguyet San: They sell Yuuki cup, Moon cup, Meluna cup, LadyCup, DivaCup. Ms.Mai Zalo-Viber: 01689.338.135, Email: shopgoixinh@gmail.com - Skype: Maidt.vtm, Facebook: www.facebook.com/cocnguyetsan.de, Facebook: www.facebook.com/cocnguyetsanchophunu
    • Coc Nguyet Saneu: They sell Meluna cup, Yuuki cup, Lady cup, Fluer cup, EVA cup. CỐC NGUỴỆT SAN NHẬP KHẨU, Trụ Sở Chính: 105/3b An Dương Vương. Tây Hồ. Hà Nội, Hotline: 098.383.1299 - 090.171.3883, http://facebook.com/cocnguyetsaneu
    • Coc Nguyet San MoonCup: Give them a facebook msg or call: 0988917903

Costs[edit]

Gynecological Exams[edit]

Laws & Social Stigmas[edit]

What to Get & Where to Get It[edit]

Costs[edit]

Pregnancy[edit]

Laws & Social Stigmas[edit]

In Vietnam, new mothers get 4-6 months off for maternity leave with 100% of income covered.[12] According to a 2013 Save the Children report: "Vietnam, for example, though quite poor, scored relatively well as a place for moms, in part by cutting its newborn death rate by an impressive 47 percent over 20 years."[13]

What to Get & Where to Get It[edit]

Pregnancy tests are widely available at pharmacies throughout the city. Pharmacies in tourist areas most likely have someone who speaks English.

Costs[edit]

Abortion[edit]

Laws & Social Stigmas[edit]

Abortion is fully legal for about to 22 weeks of pregnancy. All reasons for an abortion, including to save the life of the woman, to preserve physical health, or mental health, rape or incest, fetal impairment, social/economic reasons, or available upon request, are all considered valid. As stated in the Law on Protection of People's Health (1989), "Women have the rights to have abortion; to receive gynecological diagnosis and treatment; and health check-up during pregnancy; and medical service when giving birth at health facilities.” There are three administrative levels that perform abortions in Vietnam, depending on the stage of the pregnancy: 1) For 6-22 weeks, central and provincial hospitals 2) 6-12 weeks, district health stations and 3) up to 6 weeks at communal health centers (and, in some cases, private clinics, if they meet certain criteria).

In Vietnam, abortion became fully legal since reunification in 1975. Since that time, and especially since the 1980s, the country has had a rather high abortion rate. Between 1982 and 1994, the abortion rates rose six-fold. In 1996, the abortion rate was 83.3 abortions per 1000 women. In 2014, it was reported that 40% of pregnancies end in abortion. As reported: "Sexual behaviour among young Vietnamese has radically transformed in the last few decades -- they have sex earlier and marry later -- but the state's old-fashioned family planning services offer little advice or suitable contraception to young, unmarried couples, experts say.As a result they suspect that abortion -- permitted up to 22 weeks and widely available, particularly at legal but largely unregulated private clinics -- is being used to prevent unwanted pregnancies more often than in other countries." [14]

What to Get & Where to Get It[edit]

The abortion pill is available at Family Medical Practice Vietnam. http://www.vietnammedicalpractice.com/ All the doctors are western or western trained. Ask for a doctor specializing in women's health. The pharmacy at the Hanoi location is located within the clinic. The appointment, ultrasound, and medicine will cost around $200 USD. Total for the pill and pain killers is about $25 USD. Very professional, clean, quick, and comfortable experience.

Here are some hospitals/clinics that provide abortions in HCMC:

  • France-Vietnam Hospital - Address: 6 Nguyen Luong Bang St., Saigon South (Phu My Hung), Dist. 7, HCMC, Tel: (08) 54 11 33 33, Fax: (08) 54 11 33 34. Email: information@fvhospital.com
  • Hanh Phuc Hospital - Hospital Address: Binh Duong Boulevard, Thuan An Town, Binh Duong Province, Vietnam. Medical Building Address: 97 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai St, District 1, HCMC, Vietnam. Tel: (84) 8) 3925 9797 Fax: (84) (8) 3925 9949 Email: saigonclinic@hanhphuchospital.com, Tel: (84) (650) 363 60 68 - Fax: (84) (650) 363 60 69
  • City International Hospital - Address: Số 3, Đường 17A, P. Bình Trị Đông B, Q. Bình Tân, TP. Hồ Chí Minh. Phone: (848) 6280 3333 - Số Fax: (848) 6290 8800. Email: info@cih.com.vn, booking@cih.com.vn.
  • International Hi-Tech Healthcare Park - 532A Kinh Duong Vuong, Binh Tri Dong B ward, Binh Tan District, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, Tel: +84 8 62661188, Fax: +84 8 62661199, Email: enquiry@hoalam-shangrila.com

Check out the Hanoi page for facilities in the north.

Costs[edit]

Advocacy & Counseling[edit]

Laws & Social Stigmas[edit]

What to Get & Where to Get It[edit]

Costs[edit]

List of Additional Resources[edit]

  • Center for Studies and Applied Sciences in Gender-Family-Women and Adolescent (CSAGA): CSAGA addresses domestic violence, child abuse, drug addiction and family planning through free counseling programs, public education and research initiatives. E-mail: tinhcamlinhtam@fpt.vn
  • Population Council: The Population Council's mission is to conduct research on reproductive health and contraceptive choice. Has presence in Vietnam.

References[edit]

  1. DKT International: Vietnam
  2. Accessibility and Use of Contraceptives in Vietnam
  3. Wikipedia: Two-child Policy
  4. Accessibility and Use of Contraceptives in Vietnam
  5. EC Status and Availability: Vietnam
  6. Princeton EC Website
  7. VIETNAM - REGULATIONS ON ENTRY, STAY AND RESIDENCE FOR PLHIV
  8. HIV/STD Infection in Vietnamese and Vietnamese Americans
  9. HIV Infection and Risk Characteristics Among Female Sex Workers in Hanoi, Vietnam
  10. HIV/AIDS in Vietnam
  11. STD management by private pharmacies in Hanoi: practice and knowledge of drug sellers
  12. Wikipedia: Parental Leave
  13. Here’s a map of the best and worst countries to be a mother
  14. Sky-high abortions in Vietnam as family planning excludes youth