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Strengthened national network of people living With HIV elects new leaders

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HIV story 1Eamonn Murphy, Chair of the Joint UN Team on HIV addressed the meeting and encouraged changes for improvementHa Noi, 6 January 2012 - Viet Nam’s National Network of People Living with HIV (VNP+) began the new year by electing new leaders at an historic meeting of more than 120 representatives of self-help groups of people living with HIV (PLHIV) from across Viet Nam.

The meeting featured detailed debate and voting on reform measures to improve the governance structure, communications and financial management within the network. Senior officials from the Fatherland Front, the Viet Nam Union of Science and Technology Associations (VUSTA), the UN, and the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) attended the opening session of the meeting and expressed their support.

VNP+ represents thousands of PLHIV in the country, provides a platform for PLHIV to exchange information, and advocates for universal access to comprehensive HIV services and respect for the rights of PLHIV and people at risk of infection. Since it was established in 2008, the network has rapidly grown, straining the capacities of its leaders and a small, Hanoi-based secretariat. The expectations of its members have grown as well.

HIV story 2The new elected VNP+ Council with representatives of PLHIV in seven regions of Viet Nam “VNP+ has quickly expanded since its establishment and is now widely known by people living with HIV in the country,” said Nguyen Anh Phong, representative of the “Friendship 4” self-help group in Ho Chi Minh City. “However, there needs to be a better two-way communications and stronger solidarity between the network council and network members, so the network can truly represent and serve its members.”

During the two-and-a-half-day meeting of the network, an independent assessment of the network was presented and options for improvement were thoroughly discussed and then voted on. As a result, the new VNP+ Council includes self-help group leaders from seven regions of the country. In early 2012, the Council will lead the strengthening of the VNP+ secretariat and put in place a new system for network communications.  

“I was very impressed by the transparent democratic process managed by the outgoing VNP+ leadership. There were big debates at times, but in the end a stronger network with a truly representative leadership emerged from the meeting,” said Eamonn Murphy, Country Director of UNAIDS Viet Nam, which has been providing technical assistance to VNP+ since its establishment.

“As we enter the Year of the Dragon, the UN is looking forward to working with partners in supporting the new Council to continue the work of VNP+ in representing PLHIV of Viet Nam,” he added.

The seven members of the new VNP+ Council are:
1.       Northwest region: Nguyen Xuan Cuong, Bright Futures-Thai Nguyen
2.       Northeast region: Quach Thi Mai, Hai Phong PLHIV Network
3.       Red River Delta region: Nguyen Van Cuong, Hai Duong Network
4.       Hanoi: Do Dang Dong, former VNP+ national coordinator
5.       Central region: Tran Phuoc Toan, Hope Club-Da Nang  
6.       Mekong delta region: Tran Thi Thanh Van, Hope Group-An Giang
7.       Ho Chi Minh City: Nguyen Anh Phong, Friendship 4