My name is Nguyen Thi Huong. I am 32 years old. I started using heroin 11 years ago. My family and I were very ashamed because of this. There was no help, only the compulsory centre and the fear of being arrested and sent there. I felt hopeless. I tried to quit and it took me 15 rounds of detox to finally do it. It was a very painful time. And even after I quit, the shame of being a drug user continued to haunt me. In early 2014 I was approached by a friend who also had drug use experience. He invited me to join Bac Giang Faith – a drug user group which is supported by the Asia Action on Harm Reduction project.
My experience of drug use is useful to others. Now I help people who use drugs to prevent HIV, hepatitis C and overdose by sharing with them my knowledge and experience. I encourage them to enroll in HIV testing and treatment programmes. I visit the families. They trust me. Many people need treatment for their addiction and everybody is afraid of compulsory centre.
We also participate in many workshops and trainings and interact with member of our community, even with the judges. I remember a Chief Judge of a district shared with us,‘for 18 years I have been member of a committee that sends people who use drugs to compulsory centres. I can say for every 10 people we sent, 11 came back and started to use drugs again. We can't continue like that. We have to change and develop a more effective treatment system". He got a big applause from participants of the training. I could not believe my ears. I used to be so afraid of people like him.
It was hard to imagine that one day people suffering from drug addiction, like myself, can come openly to the health centre and get help. It is like a dream come true.