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After unexpectedly becoming pregnant, this young woman, who has yet to break the news to her family, began searching for someone to adopt her child, due this December.
The classified on the forum attracted different reactions, some of which showed sympathy, while others blamed her for being an irresponsible mother.
The incident again raises a question on sex education in Vietnam, which exists humbly as a part of biology classes and sometimes health seminars. According to the second Survey Assessment of Vietnamese Youth (SAVY II) in 2010, only 42.5 percent of Vietnamese youth aged 15-24 have comprehensive knowledge of HIV transmission, far less than the national target of 95 percent by 2010.
“I don’t think I’m equipped with enough knowledge about sex. I’m very shy to talk about it, especially to my parents,” confesses 25-year old Nguyen Thi Ut, a company employee.
“Women should know how to protect themselves because it’s usually their loss when it comes to unprotected sex,” says 20-year old Minh Tri.
However, when asked what preventive methods she knows, Tri only can list condoms for men.
Hai Yen, who now works in a bank in the city, says she was not curious about sex until she starting dating her boyfriend a year ago.
She prefers researching the subject online and anonymously posing questions to doctors, without being judged on how silly she might sound.
Yen is one of several young people who secretly educate themselves on sexuality through the internet. Regarded as topic that is too taboo to talk about, Vietnamese youth find it embarrassing to pose questions regarding sex issues in school and family settings.
On the other hand, many adults in Vietnam compare teaching their children about sex to “drawing a way for the deer to run”, or encouraging them to engage in copulation at an early age.
Nevertheless, Eamonn Murphy, country director at UNAIDS Vietnam, said in an interview with Tuoi Tre that the teaching of sexuality actually helps push back the age of initially getting involved in sexual activities.
That is the reason why UNAIDS Vietnam has cooperated with the Ministry of Education and Training to introduce sex education to the new school curriculum. The organization has also joined hands with the ministry in life skill training for young people both in and out of school, so that they can lead a happy and healthy life.
Although lacking information on safe sex, 56 percent of women and 57 percent men aged 15 to 24 responded that they know where they can purchase condoms when they need to, according to the Vietnam Population and AIDS Indicator, a study conducted in 2005.
“I often carry condoms with me, even when I travel,” reveals 26-year old Minh Hoang.
“Not only do I want to protect myself, but also my partner.”
The increasing number of condoms annually sold in Ho Chi Minh City proves people have become aware of the steps necessary for the prevention of HIV/AIDS and unwanted pregnancy, says Doctor Tran Thinh, Deputy Director at the city’s AIDS Committee Standing Bureau.
“Condoms are usually available in guesthouses and hotels in Vietnam as a part of the room price, or sold separately. Some organizations have provided a number of condoms for free or at very low prices. Condoms also come in different sizes, colors and flavors to attract young people,” he says.
With an aim to to normalize the idea of condoms to their friends, a group of students in the Professional Communication Program at the Saigon South Campus of the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) have come up with the BCS—Be Condom-Savvy project - as part of their Interdisciplinary Communications Project course. By creating a fun and educational experience, these students aim to provide their peers with a credible source to find accurate and entertaining information about condoms, as well as to become a friendly platform for everyone to share their stories and opinions about this sensitive topic.
Nhu Quynh, one of the project members, says many young people are curious about condoms, and that the group provides a great chance to raise the students’ awareness on this issue.
On their launch day on November 17, the two mascots, Mr and Mrs Condom walked hand in hand, hugging everyone on campus as a jingle sang “Bao cao su”, or condoms in Vietnamese. There was also a 35m banner featuring funny short stories, drawings, and games.
“A friend of mine said she spent the whole night talking about our launch with other mates in the dorm. We’ve got several requests to download the jingle as ringtone. This is a real success,” said Hai Dang, a project member.
“I’m very proud of my students. They delivered the message in a fun and professional way,” said Jade Bilowol, a professional communication lecturer who participated in the launch event.
Landon Carnie, who is teaching the Interdisciplinary Communications Project course and is directly in charge of the team, says he was a little worried about his students’ decision to promote condoms on campus.
“It’s a sensitive topic, not only in Vietnam, but also around the world,” he says.
However, the lecturer is now glad to have witnessed the recent outcome from his student’s project.
The students are still not sure how long they will carry on this campaign, as their course project will end next January.
But what they are certain about is that they have made great efforts to speak up about safe sex and remove the stigma and shame associated to condoms.
“I think young people in this modern age should be prepared and confident when talking about condoms and contraceptive methods. They shouldn’t be ashamed to seek knowledge from their parents, teachers and friends,” said Hai Dang.