Training Materials on HIV and the Law in Viet Nam:
Overcoming Challenges the BABSEACLE Way!
By Members of the HIV Manual Editorial Team
In recent years, the government of Viet Nam has focused on educating citizens on the Law on HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control in order to ensure the law is being respected and is being correctly and fairly implemented. This focus has gradually increased awareness and helped the State to regulate behaviour according to the rule of law. In order to satisfy the needs of People living with HIV (PLHIV) and enable the law to be used as a tool for protecting rights and benefits of PLHIV, BABSEACLE assisted in developing and writing the manual “Learn About Your Rights, a Training Manual on HIV and the Law”. It also helped support a local organization, the Institute for Research on Policy, Law and Devel-opment, a number of Vietnamese clinical legal education professors and student partners, PLHIV from many self–help groups throughout the country and UNAIDS to prepare the manual, which was published in November, 2011.
The Manual includes basic information about HIV and AIDS; the rights and obligations of PLHIV; and the mechanisms available to address rights violations of PLHIV. Moreover, the manual is written carefully and is easy to use, featuring the inclusion of real cases and interactive teaching methods, such as role-plays, presentations and mock interviews that are designed to impart the specific information contained in each topic. The topics are based on the content of the Law on HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control, and associated legal documents guiding the implementation of that Law. The manual consists of 12 chapters. That’s not too many for a normal textbook but each one required much sweat, energy, and commitment, with hours and hours of tireless work by many people in and outside of Viet Nam. We faced many challenges.
First of all, writing a book about law is not easy, but writing a book for people who don’t know much about law and do not necessarily attend academic classes is even more difficult. The main challenge was: ‘How to make people not feel asleep while learning about law’! How do you teach people about legal knowledge and skills and also enable them to teach others easily – without going to law school and doing research from other sources? To solve this problem, the manual’s editorial team used many different CLE methodologies to have learners do role plays, participate in games or do short versions of a mock trial. Moreover, to make sure that we had a really practical manual, each chapter had to be
tested in many different communities throughout Viet Nam. We taught different chapters to various communities and asked learners to give comments and suggest improvements. After putting a great deal of effort and creativity into each chapter, we eventually had a manual that integrated various interactive methods.
It’s not easy for different people in different places to work together to write and improve chapters together. It became more difficult when participants in this project had to work in English – not easy for the Vietnamese team. This difficulty was solved by effective communication via Skype and email and learning how to use “Track changes” and “Comment” to edit the text.
This is the first manual on Law and HIV in Viet Nam, so there was not a lot of reference material to help the writers develop content for the HIV manual. But with support from many experts, especially UNAIDS and Ministry of Health experts, we were able to improve each chapter with more and more updated information. Moreover, real experience in working with PLHIV helped us make the manual even better.
The HIV manual focuses on Law and HIV, so the main language is legal language. The manual is also meant to be used as a course book, so it had to be academic enough to express the legal issues and also simple enough for learners like people living with HIV to understand easily and be able to apply the legal knowledge and skills to their daily life. The feedback from participants, lawyers and legal experts during the manual testing process was one of the best tools to solve this problem. The language in the manual became more and more appropriate for both trainers and participants.
When “Learn About Your Rights, a Training Manual on HIV and the Law” was finally published, it brought a lot of happiness and pride to the entire team. But the most valuable thing the manual gave us is the hope and belief that from now on people living with HIV will have a legal tool to protect their rights and also help others in their community.
It should be pointed out that during the time we spent developing this manual, new legal documents about PLHIV and Vietnamese law were being issued. Most of content had to be amended to meet these changes. We knew it would be very difficult to produce the first training manual for law students and PLHIV with the most up-to-date information. It required a lot of time and effort, concentration and commitment, but in the end – WE DID IT