Meet PITCH Country Focal Point Lai Thanh Hang from Vietnam

Meet PITCH Country Focal Point Lai Thanh Hang from Vietnam

In our series on PITCH country focal points, Lai Thanh Hang from Vietnam shares what she hopes to achieve with her partners before the end of the programme.

What are key advocacy successes achieved in PITCH in your country to date?

Three successes have been instrumental in establishing a fruitful collaboration with policy makers in Vietnam. The first success was the introduction of a new policy on sex workers (Decision 1875/QD-BLDTBXH), which became effective on 1 January 2019. This policy establishes the technical and budgetary framework for piloting community-based sex worker supporting models in 2016-2020. It is an official legal framework to guide the operation of sex worker community-based organisations (CBOs).

Under the new policy, SCDI’s sex-worker CBO model (a long-haul intervention and advocacy community-based model within the Bridging the Gaps and PITCH framework) is one of the three pilot models. As a result, it will receive funding from the local government if the province selects it.

Another notable success was the inclusion of the transgender community in the consultation workshop on evaluating the implementation of policies and laws on HIV and TB. This is especially timely as Vietnam is moving towards the universal health coverage. The workshop was hosted by the Social Affairs Commission of the National Assembly. People from transgender communities had the opportunity to call attention to the existing barriers to accessing HIV and TB treatment. They also raised concerns about the difficulty of getting a social health insurance, accessing health care, and other social and legal issues facing transgender people.

Since 2016, SCDI has also initiated a number of dialogues with different law enforcement agencies. The goal of these dialogues was to establish a joint and reflective multi-sectoral partnership between all relevant agencies. One of them is with the General Police Department on Administrative Management of Social Order (C06). SCDI focuses its advocacy efforts on this institution as a focal point law enforcement agency.

SCDI has also teamed up with experts of the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs. This partnership has resulted in the delivery of a comprehensive training for police officers of C06. The themes covered include drug abuse, addiction treatment, harm reduction, HIV/AIDS, LGBT, juvenile offenders and sex work.

By November 2018, SCDI has organised 20 trainings for 3050 law enforcement officials of C04 in different parts of Vietnam. This series of trainings should pave the way for our concerted approach to gradually change deep-rooted prejudices against vulnerable populations to HIV. They may open up favourable opportunities to advocate for positive change in current law enforcement practices and encourage law enforcement support for tackling social issues of key populations. SCDI strongly believes that a transformational change in the law enforcement system towards a community-driven approach comes from individual change processes – each law enforcement official must be the change.

Who are your two most important allies?

We are fortunate to have more than two advocacy allies, including:

  • Department of Social Vices Prevention (DSVP) – Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs. DSVP is a key ally advocating for policies on drug use and sex work. They have been engaging SCDI and key population communities in policy drafting for the past 5 years.
  • Vietnam Administration of HIV/AIDS Control (VAAC) – Ministry of Health is a key ally in executing HIV/AIDS programmes for key populations.
  • General police department on administrative management of social order (C06) – Ministry of Public Security and Social Affairs. C06 is our key ally advocating for positive changes in key population-related law implementation.
  • Commission of National Assembly (SAC) is our highest policy level ally at the National Assembly, which shows more and more empathy for community issues and supports community-based initiatives.

Name one thing that has surprised you in PITCH since you started your role.

I was impressed by the pragmatic and flexible approach of the PITCH coordination teams at Aidsfonds and Frontline AIDS. The nature of an advocacy programme like PITCH is crucially dependent on the political and social context of each country. Hence, the approach used by the coordination teams gives tremendous support for the local partners in implementing their advocacy strategies and work plans. In addition, our partners can grasp emerging advocacy opportunities by using practical solutions and organising activities that benefit key populations.

What is the top change you hope to see in your country before the end of PITCH?

My wish is to see the key laws that SCDI and key population communities are advocating for become a reality. For instance, the draft law on sex work, the revised law on drug treatment, the revised law on HIV and AIDS, and the revised law on health and social insurance.

Name one thing you have learned through working in PITCH that you didn’t know before?

The lesson I learned is that considerable flexibility in the work plan and methodologies to execute project activities is critical to the success of the advocacy project. Windows of opportunities to change policy don’t happen daily. Hence, it is essential to be flexible and pragmatic enough to seize positive advocacy opportunities by undertaking suitable project activities.

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