Half a million copies of a booklet intended to help lower the incidence of AIDS and combat discrimination against children with the disease will be distributed to schools and the broader community.
The publication, titled Facts on Children and HIV/AIDS was publicly launched on August 23 in Hanoi . It has been sponsored by the United Nations Fund for Children (UNICEF).
It was drafted by experts from the Ministry of Education and Training (MoET), the Women's Union and the Ministry of Labour, War Invalids and Social Affairs (MoLISA).
It provides information in simple language and format to address commonly held misconceptions about HIV, which have led to discrimination of children, and adults, infected with it.
These include the belief held by many that all HIV-positive mothers give birth to HIV-positive children. However, the rate of transmission is only about two to eight per cent if the mother uses anti-retroviral medicine (ARV) before and after giving birth.
The booklet points out that with adequate health-care, children with HIV can study and live normal lives.
"We hope the book will soon become the gold standard for preventing the stigmatisation of children with HIV," said Eamonn Murphy, UNAIDS representative in Vietnam.
Nguyen Trong An, deputy director of the Child Protection and Care Department under MoLISA, said discrimination against HIV children was pervasive.
He said the booklet should provide teachers with factual information on HIV/AIDS so that teachers and others can deal effectively with questions and inquiries.
Murphy, however, said that the booklet itself would not make a difference. "We strongly believe how it will be used matters," he said.
He suggested it be used to help discussions in schools and in the community to address gaps in the knowledge about the disease.
Ngu Duy Anh, director of the Department of Students' Affairs under MoET, said that he expected more booklets may be printed so that every teacher can have one.
Le Thi Luong (not her real name), aged 12, from Hai Phong City , received HIV from her mother. However, she has finished primary school and is entering sixth grade next month at Le Chan Secondary School in the city.
The smiling girl said she had many friends in her class.
"My best friends, Mai, Khanh and Hang, and I often go to school together," she said. "We have also been playing together since we were in grade two."
A teacher at Le Chan Secondary Highs, said Phuong Anh was not the only HIV-affected child to study at the school.
"School managers and teachers did not hesitate to receive her into our family," she said.
This is because the school had been active in providing every teacher and student with information on HIV/AIDS.
"I think education on this issue is important. Every child should have the right to access education regardless of their health status. This book will be a significant part of that effort," Nghia said.