arrow for change – affirming sexuality: a counselling programme for young people in vietnam


Sexuality has been and still is considered as a sensitive and taboo issue in Vietnamese society. Yet this does not mean that Vietnamese people do not talk about sexuality. Sexuality issues are discussed in daily life, but mostly in the form of jokes or sexual innuendoes. Talking about sexuality as a serious issue in communications, education, training and research programmes is still limited in the country.

Accounting for 20.9% of the total population of 86,116,559, young people between 15 to 25 years old are an important component in all social and economic programmes and policies in Vietnam. Specifically in the health sector, accumulated data has shown a high need for educational programmes on sexuality, reproductive and sexual health for young people in order to prevent unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV. Young people aged 14-29 years comprise 56% of the HIV prevalence in 2008. Of these, 52% belong to youth aged 20-29 years old, making this the group with the highest HIV infection rate among all ages. In the most recent national survey, 33% of urban unmarried boys 22-25 years old and 26% from rural areas said that they had pre-marital sex. Meanwhile, the use of contraceptive in unmarried youth is much lower than that of married couples (4% versus 75%). Though reliable data is not available, this high unmet need for contraceptives of young people brings them at a higher risk of unwanted pregnancies and greater need for abortion. In one paper, Belanger and Khuat have called attention to repeated abortions among young women.

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Asian-Pacific Resource and Research Centre for Women