From its earliest years, ISDS has been pioneering unique studies of gender, sexuality and sexual health in Vietnam. Two most notable studies are a qualitative inquiry on the social construction of sexuality in Vietnam in 2003; and a national survey on sexuality and sexual health in 2009.
In addition to the studies of the general population, ISDS also conducted scientific investigations of sexual minorities of men who have sex with men, intravenous drug users, unauthorized rural-urban migrants, commercial sex workers, people living with HIV (PLWHIV), and trafficking victims. Both the state and mainstream society severely stigmatize and discriminate against these groups, largely by linking their sexuality to the spread of HIV in the country. Many publications and research papers have been published and widely disseminated.
The Institute’s above works on sexuality and sexual health have been funded by The Ford Foundation since 2002. Since 2009, as a partner in the STAR project of the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University and Hanoi Medical University, ISDS has conducted a research on the reproductive and sexual health of people living with HIV who are participating in ARV treatment in Hanoi. Within three years from 2006 to 2009, ISDS in collaboration with the Program on Global Health and Human Rights of the Harvard School of Public Health and Center for Studies and Applied Sciences in Gender – Family – Women and Adolescents (CSAGA) and later ActionAid, conducted a research on the link between sexual violence and the vulnerability of HIV infection. The research findings were later successfully used for the development of a toolkit to guide action to raise awareness on the issue.
Training on gender, sexuality and sexual health is organized into two types of programs. The first type is formal education for university students. Since 2005, ISDS has been delivering this training at the Academy for Journalism and Communication (AJC), a national affiliation of the Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics. The program started with the training of trainers for faculties of the AJC with various modules. After that, with the technical support of ISDS, the faculties developed the curriculum to integrate the subject into the formal teaching program for students and AJC. Since May 2011, ISDS has been applying a similar training program for the School of Women Cardre of the Vietnam Women Union. Some professional staff of ISDS have been involved in training on sexuality and HIV as part of the STAR project carried out by the Mailman School of Public Health of Columbia University and Hanoi Medical University.
The second type is short-term training for government officials, academia, and civil society organizations. Training of this type has been carried out by AJC for in-service propaganda cadre of government in many provinces across the country. Training is also delivered through the annual Vietnam Nationwide Institute on Gender, Sexuality and Sexual Health (VNIGSS) organized by ISDS and Centre for Integrated Health Programs (CIHP). Trainees are selected from government, local and international NGOs, as well as from academia. ISDS also help to build capacity for the Vietnamese Women Union and the Vietnam National Television to work on gender, sexuality and sexual health through training for staff of these two organizations.
The purpose of these training sessions is to produce for the first time in Vietnam a critical mass of professionals working on sexuality and sexual health issues.
Advocacy and Information Sharing
To sensitize and inform the public on the issues of gender and sexuality, the Institute closely collaborates with various channels such as the Vietnam National Television to produce broadcasts on sexuality and sexual health issues that are of public concern. These broadcasts have been repeatedly aired nationwide.
The Institute houses the Resource Center on Gender, Sexuality and Sexual Heath that maintains a large collection of printed materials and multimedia products of these topics. The Center is open to the public, students and academics. The Center also host the seminar series ‘Gender, Sexuality and Society’ with participants coming from academia, LNGOs and INGOs. For international collaboration, the Center links to the Regional Resource Center of TARSHI for organizing the summer institute in Vietnam (2006) and for exchange information between Vietnam and the region.
In April 2009, together with the Consultation of Investment in Health Promotion (CIHP) and the Hanoi Medical University, the Institute successfully host the 7th Conference of the International Association for the Study of Sexuality, Culture and Society (IASSCS). The title of the 7th IASSCS Conference is Contested Innocence: Sexual Agency in Public and Private Space. The Conference has attracted 420 delegates coming from many countries over the world. The Conference received very wide national media coverage.
In October 2010, in collaboration with the Center for Creative Initiatives in Health and Population, we have successfully organized the First National Symposium on Sexuality and Sexual Health “Negotiating Sexualities in Moving Spaces”. More than 100 delegates took part in the Symposium. Many high-quality papers were presented in various sessions during two days of October 28th and 29th.