A qualitative and quantitative study on harm reduction approaches in Vietnam

Dung Tuan Truong

Dung Tuan Truong, PhD Candidate in Criminology, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand, dane.truong@vuw.ac.nz

Abstinence has historically been the dominant approach internationally for tackling drug dependence, however, the emergence of HIV/AIDS in the 1980s led to new approaches of engagement with people using illicit drugs, and harm reduction was widely accepted as a more appropriate and effective model of engagement intervention. While Vietnam officially adopted a harm reduction approach in the mid-1990s, misperceptions about drug use and harm reduction are still commonplace, and for many stakeholders abstinence remains the dominant philosophy.

This study explored how Vietnamese key stakeholders perceived harm reduction philosophy and how they applied it in policy and practice. Specifically, the study explored how stakeholders define perceive and understand harm reduction principles respond to drugs, drug use and drug addiction in conjunction with a harm reduction philosophy. Mixed qualitative and quantitative methods were conducted with the participation of 250 survey respondents and 25 interviewees who work for different agencies involved in drug use in Vietnam.

Main results of this study showed that abstinence approaches tended to be preferred in Vietnam, where addiction is categorised as a brain disease. Harm reduction was firmly rooted a narrow public health perspective, and confusion over harm reduction philosophy and its principles were widespread. Harm reduction was designed more to protect the wider community and address medical problems rather than other vital problems, such as resolving discrimination, improving social capital, promoting human rights or reducing conflicts and social disorder behaviour.


First name: Dung

Last name: Truong Tuan

English name: Dane Truong

Sex: Male

Date of Birth: February 08th 1985

Place of Birth: Nghe An Province, Vietnam

Wellington City Telephone: +64 221346765

E-mail: dane.truong@vuw.ac.nz

Educational background: Doing PhD majoring Criminology in  Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. M.A., Justice Leadership, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland, March 2011 – August 2012. B.A., Law, the People’s Police University, Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam, September 2003 July – 2008

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