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Male sexuality in Vietnam: the case of male-to-male sex

Bao Ngoc Vu A F , Philippe Girault B , Binh Van Do C , Donn Colby D and Lien Thi Bich Tran E
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Family Health International, Vietnam Office, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi, Vietnam.

B Family Health International, Asia-Pacific Regional Office, Lumpini, Phatumwan, Bangkok 10330, Thailand.

C Centre for Social Work and Community Development Research and Consultancy (SDRC), Binh Thanh District, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

D Vietnam–CDC – Harvard Medical School AIDS Partnership, Tropical Disease Hospital, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

E Social Sciences and Humanities School, Ho Chi Minh City National University, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

F Corresponding author. Email:

Sexual Health 5(1) 83-88
Submitted: 27 August 2007  Accepted: 29 January 2008   Published: 22 February 2008


Background: To implement effective behaviour change interventions for men who have sex with men, qualitative information was collected about the contexts and meanings of sex and relationships between men in Ho Chi Minh City. Methods: Individual interviews and focus groups were conducted with 74 men aged 18 years or older who had had sex with another man in the previous 12 months. Results: Findings reveal that sex between men exists and is associated with two common descriptors in Vietnam: bong lo for those who are feminised in public and bong kin for those who are not, and are often married. In sexual relationships, for both groups of men, there is a trade off between sexual pleasure and risk. Condoms may not be used, particularly when having sex with a partner who was considered to be good looking or perceived as ‘clean’. Conclusions: The study highlights the need for HIV prevention programs which address issues of sexual meaning in male-to-male sexual relationships.

Additional keywords: HIV prevention, men who have sex with men.


The research described in this paper was partly supported by United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, and was implemented by Family Health International, Cooperative Agreement No. 486-A-00-06-00009-00. The views expressed are those of the authors alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government. We would like to thank the HCMC AIDS Committee, especially Dr Le Truong Giang, Dr Tran Thinh and Mr Le Cao Dung, and the Binh Thanh District Health Center, especially Dr Pham Bao Lam and staff at the Blue Sky Men’s Health Club, for their support to the implementation of the project. We also thank the peer outreach workers, the interviewers and the respondents who participated in the study. We would like to acknowledge the critical comments and suggestions provided by Ms Donna Flanagan, Dr Stephen J. Mills, Dr Philippe Guest, Ms Tenley Mogk and Ms Jennifer Nugent. The authors are grateful to Dr Paul Boyce and Professor Peter Aggleton for their comments on earlier drafts of the paper.


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