From November 25th to December 5th 2011, United Nations’ Special Rapporteur for the Human Rights Council Anand Grover visited Vietnam to survey the country’s health systems and financing, access to medicines, and HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment. Following his 10 days of observation and dialogue, Mr. Grover presented his preliminary findings at a press conference earlier this week. His final report will not be available until June 2012.
Mr. Grover commended the government of Vietnam for its poverty reduction efforts as well as its commitment to ensure access to healthcare for all. However, his most notable conclusion was that compulsory detention in rehabilitation centers for drug users and sex workers is “ineffective,” “counterproductive,” and “violates the right to health.”
These centers are “ineffective” as evidenced by a high relapse rates amongst drug users. They “violate the right to health” because detainees were not provided access to court hearings to challenge decisions related to themselves nor were they provided the opportunity to give informed consent for any medical treatment they may be forced to undergo at these facilities. The rehabilitation centers are “counterproductive” because they “perpetuate stigmatization and discrimination” – perhaps suggesting that people living with HIV/AIDS are all drug users or sex workers. Instead, the Vietnamese government might want to direct fundings towards methadone treatment programs, which will help reduce drug use and aid in the reintegration of affected individuals back into the community.
In a separate report released back in September 2011, the Human Rights Watch organization also urged Vietnam to close down its drug rehabilitation centers because detainees, including children, were subjected to hard labour and abuse, such as slapping. Detainees have shared accounts of being beaten with wooden truncheons or electric batons. Food, water, bathing, and family visits were either restricted or prohibited. If these accounts are true, then it probably came as no surprise that Mr. Grover concluded that sex and drug rehabilitation centers are “ineffective,” “counterproductive,” and “violates the right to health.”
Given these findings, should the Vietnamese government shut down its sex and drug rehabilitation centers and concentrate on alternative treatment methods for affected individuals? Or, should Vietnam keep these centers open but implement reforms to make these centers less abusive and more effective?