Publications & Reports

Vietnamese-speaking injecting drug users in Melbourne: the need for harm reduction programs.

Louie R, Krouskos D, Gonzalez M, Crofts N
Epidemiology and Social Research Unit, Macfarlane Burnet Centre for Medical Research, Victoria.


While research on aspects of injecting drug use (IDU), including injecting and sexual risks for HIV transmission, has been progressing in ‘mainstream’ Australian populations, there has been little among non-English speaking background (NESB) communities in Australia, particularly the South-East Asian communities, of which the Vietnamese is the largest. This exploratory study employed and trained peer workers to recruit and interview IDUs of Vietnamese origin in Melbourne on a wide range of subjects related to risks associated with their drug using, as an initial assessment of risk-taking behaviours for blood-borne viruses among Vietnamese-speaking IDUs. A finger-prick blood sample was taken where possible to measure antibody status to HIV, HBV and HCV. The profile which emerged was not dissimilar to that of their English-speaking counterparts prior to the benefit of currently available harm-reduction programs. A relatively isolated group whose social world often related only to other Vietnamese-speaking drug users, they were engaging in unsafe sex and unsafe injecting and were unfamiliar with procedures for cleaning injecting equipment and where they could seek out information and services, including needle exchanges. This study has identified an urgent need not only to promote currently available information and services to this group, but also to provide culturally relevant education and other harm-reduction measures needed to prevent transmission of HIV, other BBVs and STDs. The study has highlighted the lack of responsiveness of mainstream health services to the needs of Vietnamese-speaking IDUs.


  • Journal: Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health
  • Published: 01/06/1998
  • Volume: 22
  • Issue: 4
  • Pagination: 481-484