09/29/2010, 00.00
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Government refuses help of religious organizations to counter AIDS crisis

by J.B. Vu
Over 300 thousand AIDS patients across the country. Despite economic development insufficient facilities to care for the sick, often ostracized by society. Unable to resolve the problem, the government foreign secular organizations for help, ignoring the religious groups already operative on the ground

Ho Chi Minh City (AsiaNews) – The spiralling number of HIV / AIDS cases in Vietnam is undermining government credibility. To date there are over 300 thousand sufferers of the disease throughout the country and each year an estimated 24 thousnad people die from the disease. Unable to resolve the problem, the government has recently sought help from foreign aid organizations, however, banning the involvement of any religious association.

Despite the opportunities afforded by a continuous economic growth, the Vietnamese authorities have failed to develop adequate educational facilities or hospitals. Disease prevention, recognition of cases and appropriate standards for treatment of the sick are in fact absent, and people who have contracted HIV / AIDS suffer persistent discrimination. According to a 2008 study on social activities in the country, the government has made very little progress in recent years, developing only a few social service projects. However, the ban remains on religious organizations from officially contributing their professional assistance programs, though there are several informal programs carried out by parishes and religious institutions in the country.

Speaking to AsiaNews Thao, a Christian and a social worker in Ho Chi Minh City, says that people with AIDS do not receive adequate treatment in hospitals and schools and because of the materialistic culture they are confined to the margins of society. "In this country - she says – they only talk about the disease, but in reality those who contract HIV / AIDS can not work and can not send their children to school." The woman adds that this attitude is endangering the lives of over 70 thousand orphans who have contracted the disease from their parents. According to Thao, they are likely to be left alone to their fate.

"The government – she continues - has the exclusive on all assistance projects. The authorities continue to ask for money, but they show no compassion for the victims. They do not allow any religious association to develop programs to help, even if these organizations are known for the seriousness with which they treat their patients. "

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