China's political advisers and legislators yesterday urged the public to improve their awareness of AIDS prevention and work with different levels of government to slow down the epidemic's momentum.
Liu Hanbin, vice-president of the China Family Planning Association, said that, if the deadly disease keeps growing at its current rate of 30 percent, the number of people on the mainland infected with AIDS or HIV will reach 10 million by 2010.
AIDS is a preventable but incurable disease and AIDS prevention should not just rely on medicines, added Liu, also a member of the Ninth National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.
A change in people's life style is the most effective method to prevent AIDS, Liu said. The AIDS virus is transmitted through sexual contact, blood transfusion and from a pregnant woman to her foetus.
More than 70 percent of AIDS victims worldwide have been infected through sexual contact, said Liu.
With a lot of infected victims, the AIDS virus is still in the latent stage. Therefore, many people and local officials have not yet realized the seriousness of the epidemic and how close to home the disease is.
Liu said it is essential to spread knowledge about AIDS prevention in the media and to encourage the wide use of condoms.
His view was echoed by Dai Jufang, a deputy of the National People's Congress, China's top legislative body. Both Liu and Dai are attending the ongoing meetings of their respective institutions in Beijing.
Dai, who works in the Health Bureau of Yongzhou, Central China's Hunan Province, said local people know little about AIDS and so publicity work is imperative.
She urged governments at various levels to pay special attention to adolescents, who naturally have a great interest in sex.
There are 300 million people aged between 10 and 24 inclusive on the Chinese mainland.
Liu said special attention should also be given to the migrant population of 120 million.
He said that the central government should consider AIDS prevention in its campaign to develop China's western areas because the spread of AIDS is usually linked to poverty.
The three provinces with the highest levels of AIDS infection are all in central and western China, according to Liu.
Official statistics show that, by the end of last September, a total of 28,133 people on the Chinese mainland had been reported as having the HIV virus. It is estimated that the number of people infected with HIV on the Chinese mainland now exceeds 600,000.
(China Daily March 9, 2002)