HIV/AIDS prevention and control has become a major part of China's national economic and social development plans, according to Dr. Yin Dakui, China’s vice-minister of Health at a press conference Thursday sponsored by the Information Office of the State Council.
“The misunderstanding that AIDS only affects people on the fringes of society should be brushed away …. It is time for the world to wake up and declare an all-out war against this killer disease,” Dr. Yin Dakui said.
Dr. Yin said that China’s five-year Action Plan on HIV/AIDS initiated May 25 includes measures to control the spread of the disease such as developing education programs, encouraging more tolerant social views of those suffering from the disease, and providing for better of controls of blood/plasma collection.
“It is self-evident that mankind will never win the battle against AIDS without stronger commitment from governments, particularly in the area of funding, as well as the active participation of all members of society,” Dr. Yin said.
To implement the Action Plan, China will appropriate a special fund of 100 million yuan (US$12.08 million) each year from central finance for HIV/AIDS/STD prevention and control. An additional 950 million yuan (US$114.76 million) will be earmarked to support the construction of government-regulated blood banks.
Citing June 2001 statistics from the Ministry of Health, Dr. Yin said the official number of HIV/AIDS patients on the Chinese mainland has risen to 26,058, with a total of 1,111 AIDS cases and 584 AIDS-related deaths. Ninety-four percent of reported cases are between the ages of 15 and 49. Most are men, with the ratio of men to women victims being about 5:1.
“Until a cure is found, education and prevention should top the agenda in our efforts to fight the epidemic,” Dr. Yin said, adding that sufficient information about how the virus is transmitted should be provided to the public to raise their awareness of the disease.
Dr. Yin blamed intravenous drug use as the main cause of the high HIV infection-rate reported in the Western provinces in China, particularly Yunnan, Xinjiang, Guangxi and Sichuan.
Dr. Yin also cited the problem of the spread of HIV through contaminated blood supplies. Of the 5 million people infected with HIV in the past year in the world, 600,000 cases involved mothers transmitting HIV to their children, Dr. Yin said.
Driven by economic incentives, some underground and illegal plasma collection stations that buy blood have emerged especially in rural areas that operate without regulation. According to reports, some 996 people contracted HIV through blood (plasma) donation from 1998 to June 2001. This amounted to six percent of the total number of people infected with HIV in that period, Dr. Yin said.
A more tolerant social atmosphere should be cultivated toward HIV/AIDS patients to assure that they seek early treatment. At the same time these people should be educated about their responsibilities to prevent the virus from spreading, Dr. Yin said.
(www.china.org.cn by Shan Xingmei 08/24/2001)