Women at high risk of HIV/AIDS have not received adequate education to protect themselves from the virus, a conference on the subject heard on May 11.

Senior capacity development manager Amy Sunseri of Pact, a non-governmental organisation in Vietnam , said the number of women living with HIV/AIDS was getting closer to that of men while women had less knowledge of the disease than men.

The Ministry of Health's Vietnam Administration of HIV/AIDS Control estimated there would be about 77,000 women in the country living with HIV/AIDS by 2012, an increase of 5 percent compared to 2002.

But in a ministry survey of 10,000 people aged 14-25 in 2009, only 63 percent of women knew clearly about the virus and had the necessary skills to protect themselves, while the percentage of men was 69.

The number among women living in rural areas was about 50 percent.

Leader of a 1000-member support group in Hanoi Trinh Thuy Ngan said most got the virus from their husband and took little care of the disease before joining the group.

"They neglected to protect themselves from transmission, thinking it was the other's duty. Most lack deep understanding or skills on how to take care of themselves, how to get proper treatment and how to bring up their kids safely," Ngan said.

UNAIDS Partnership adviser Chris Fontaine said an assessment of 24 HIV/AIDS programmes implemented by international and local NGOs showed that most focused on groups of injecting drug users, female sex workers, men who have sex with men and migrant workers.

Women whose husbands had unsafe sex with prostitutes or were injecting drug users had yet to receive much attention, Fontaine said.

Programmes and policies should focus more on intimate partner transmission and HIV/AIDS counsellors and reproductive health workers should be given training about the issues, Fontaine said.

Representatives from international organisations suggested the best way to prevent intimate partner transmission was to promote 100 percent condom use.

The conference was organised by USAIDS, the United Nations in Vietnam and Pact./.