[health menu] XI International Conference on AIDS
July 7-12, 1996

Nguyen Van Nhieu, Paula Kelly
CARE International in Vietnam


Peer Education With Commercial Sex Workers


"Peer" education is standard practice in Vietnam with so-called "at risk" groups -- commercial sex workers (CSWs) and injecting drug users. Is it an efficient mothod to educate CSWs about safe sex?


CARE embarked on two pilot "peer" education projects - Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) - with two local agencies already implementing "peer" IEC programmes with CSWs. It was of six months duration with one week's training covering information, and communication techniques. The Hanoi pilot added three "peers" to the existing team of ex-CSWs whilst the HCMC pilot located new "peer" CSWs.


The word "peer" has come to mean projects for "at risk" groups without an understanding of it. Because the Hanoi "peers" were not practicing CSWs they could make many more contracts including with venue owners. The HCMC "peers" as CSWs, were attached to venues, so they could not network widely and certainly not with their venue. Thus real "peers" were less effective VN terms of members.

Neither group were trained to take opportunities to enter wider networks. It was found that whilst trained "peers" give information and educate peers on protective behaviours, they have no effect on changing the environment in which sexual negotiation takes place. CSWs had a high level of knowledge and a strong desire to project themselves but no real power in the environment in which sexual negotiation takes place.

Lessons learned

There is a need to re-think the concept of "peer" education as practiced and introduce a more appropriate outreach model which resources social networks of all kinds. "Peer" education as practiced is not efficient and effective although non-CSWs are more cost effective than "CSWs peers". A simple "peer education" programme with CSWs cannot impact on the spread of HIV/AIDS unless other programmes are underway alongside than which target men.
  1. Half of the women at any one time are involved in aspects of the programmme.

  2. The women develop the module topics themselves and remain active in modifying the context and methodology.

Nguyen Van Nhieu
91/35 Su Van Hanh noi dai St.,
Dist. 10, HCMC, Vietnam
Tel: 84-8-650232; Fax: 84-8-650232

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Created: August 3, 1996
Last modified: December 8, 1996

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