The Society for Social Work and Research

2014 Annual Conference

January 15-19, 2014 I Grand Hyatt San Antonio I San Antonio, TX

Awareness of HIV Among Emerging Adults in Vietnam: The Relationship Between Information Access and Social Capital

Saturday, January 18, 2014
HBG Convention Center, Bridge Hall Street Level (San Antonio, TX)
* noted as presenting author
Huong Nguyen, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC
Clark M. Peters, PhD, JD, MSW, Assistant Professor, University of Missouri-Columbia, Columbia, MO
Cheng Shi Shiu, MSW, Doctoral Student, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL
Efforts to reduce the risks of HIV infection in Vietnam have faced special challenges. The country is experiencing tremendous social and economic change, and its relatively young population (43 percent under 25) is especially vulnerable to infections; around the globe, those aged 15-24 account for about half of new cases of HIV infection each year (CDC, 2012; Asian Development Bank, 2005). As traditional social ties are reconfigured in the context of a government transitioning from a communist dictatorship, and with Vietnamese people having sexual debut at increasingly younger ages, the risk for HIV infection among Vietnamese youths is growing (Duong et al., 2007). Officials have responded by expanding public information campaigns regarding HIV/AIDS, but such efforts face barriers related to familial and cultural norms. This study explores the association of two factors that scholarship suggests may explain the level of understanding of HIV/AIDS among Vietnamese emerging adults: their level of access to HIV information and their social capital.


The study employs the first nationally representative dataset about Vietnamese adolescents and youths. The 2003 Vietnam Survey Assessment of Vietnamese Youth (VNSAVY), the first population-based survey on Vietnamese young people, surveyed about 7,500 emerging adults (response rate 77 percent). Youths’ HIV knowledge, level of access to HIV information, and social capital were measures drawn from multiple survey items and consolidated into groups (high, medium, or low). Analyses used SVY procedures of STATA 12.


In multivariate models, controlling for basic demographics, social capital remained significant across models, even when controlling for HIV information level. Access to HIV information also is significantly associated with HIV knowledge, especially for those with low levels of HIV knowledge; those with more HIV knowledge indicated far higher levels of access to information from media, professional, and familial sources. When comparing the lower to the upper 50 percentiles, social capital’s explanatory strength is roughly equal to that of HIV information.


Overall, access to information sources may increase the level of HIV knowledge among Vietnamese adolescents, but seem to be most helpful to those with very limited levels of knowledge. Social capital is positively related to having higher level of HIV knowledge. Higher levels of HIV knowledge are associated with having a cohesive family, a strong social network that is open to sexual health discussion, and having peers who encourage healthy behaviors. These findings are consistent with the literature about adolescents in other countries, where social capital is known to serve as a protective factor against HIV risk (Gregson et al, 2004).  Our study suggests that such factors are especially important for understanding how to develop more than rudimentary HIV knowledge.


The findings presented here suggest that Vietnamese officials should diversify beyond public information campaigns and strengthen programs that enhance social capital for adolescents. While it may be efficient to deliver information through multiple media sources to educate adolescents on the basic HIV knowledge, it seems necessary to involve additional strategies, involving individuated sources to give adolescents in-depth HIV knowledge.