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In 2014, Vietnam was the first Southeast Asian country to commit to achieving the World Health Organization’s 90–90-90 global HIV targets (90% know their HIV status, 90% on sustained treatment, and 90% virally suppressed) by 2020. This pledge represented further confirmation of Vietnam’s efforts to respond to the HIV epidemic, one feature of which has been close collaboration with the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). Starting in 2004, PEPFAR supported community outreach programs targeting high-risk populations (people who inject drugs, men who have sex with men, and sex workers). To provide early evidence on program impact, in 2007–2008 we conducted a nationwide evaluation of PEPFAR-supported outreach programs in Vietnam. The evaluation focused on assessing program effect on HIV knowledge, high-risk behaviors, and HIV testing among high-risk populations—results relevant to Vietnam’s push to meet global HIV goals.


We used a mixed-methods cross-sectional evaluation design. Data collection encompassed a quantitative survey of 2199 individuals, supplemented by 125 in-depth interviews. Participants were members of high-risk populations who reported recent contact with an outreach worker (intervention group) or no recent contact (comparison group). We assessed differences in HIV knowledge, risky behaviors, and HIV testing between groups, and between high-risk populations.


Intervention participants knew significantly more about transmission, prevention, and treatment than comparison participants. We found low levels of injection drug-use-related risk behaviors and little evidence of program impact on such behaviors. In contrast, a significantly smaller proportion of intervention than comparison participants reported risky sexual behaviors generally and within each high-risk population. Intervention participants were also more likely to have undergone HIV testing (76.1% vs. 47.0%, p < 0.0001) and to have received pre-test (78.0% vs. 33.7%, p < 0.0001) and post-test counseling (80.9% vs. 60.5%, p < 0.0001). Interviews supported evidence of high impact of outreach among all high-risk populations.


Outreach programs appear to have reduced risky sexual behaviors and increased use of HIV testing services among high-risk populations in Vietnam. These programs can play a key role in reducing gaps in the HIV care cascade, achieving the global 90–90-90 goals, and creating an AIDS-free generation.