Sometimes you do the dirty. Sometimes you do the dirty with a lot of people. Sometimes you do the dirty with a lot of people, and it leaves a trace. It’s absolutely normal for this to happen, but you gotta make sure you get checked for STDs.
If you’ve had multiple partners, unprotected sex, or haven’t been tested, you put yourself at risk for catching, keeping, and sharing STDs. With the cultural stigma in Vietnam around sex, people are reluctant to speak up and get consult when it comes to problems surrounding sexual activity.
This stigma is further perpetuated with the government’s repressive policy towards people with these diseases. For instance, if you are a carrier of HIV, you may be refused a work visa in Việt Nam, although I’ve yet to meet a person firsthand who’s experienced this. Throw in the sex industry and the issue of married persons living double lives, and we’re left with a whole lot of uncertainty about what’s going on below the belt.
Data on STDs in Việt Nam is limited and hard to come by, so it’s difficult to understand of the full story. Information I’ve come by group the country as a total, so it doesn’t split data by city vs countryside or locals vs expatriates, further making it harder to grasp the scope of this issue.
What makes Viêt Nam a special case in this region is its rise in antibiotic resistance, likely from the ease of purchasing and taking over-the-counter antibiotics. Huân Đồng – currently a NIH-Fogarty Global Health Fellow researching antibiotic resistance at Hanoi Medical University and a medical student at Charles R Drew / David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA – shares some of his research:
“It’s important to know that STIs are common, especially in young people, and sometimes there are no symptoms, so a person can’t tell if they’re infected. Some STIs are treatable with simple antibiotics but it’s important to get tested to know which one to treat specifically. Some people are shy to go to the clinic and may throw a few antibiotics to try to rid the infection. However, current scientific data is showing how this may not be the best idea given the increasing amount of antibiotic resistance we’re seeing (and what I am studying here in Vietnam).”
To complicate things further, some studies indicate that different medications may be needed for say chlamydia in a person’s throat versus genitals. With different doctors and pharmacists in Việt Nam suggesting differing tests and treatment plans, “it’s important to get proper information and not treat syndromically even though antibiotics are available from the drug stores,” says Đồng.
While you can get STD testing at local clinics for very cheap, they may not readily offer the best tests. Some private and international clinics will charge a lot more, especially for treatment, so it’s best to ask around for test options and pricing.
Let’s open up the discussion about sex and STDs. Use a condom. Be informed. Get tested. For more information, check out Dr. Serge Gradstein’s interview on STDs in Việt Nam. For testing, visit Family Medical Practice. Have other information on STDs in Vietnam? Know where else to get tested? Please leave a comment below and share with the Vietcetera community.