Chinese, US officials and experts pledged to work more closely to boost China's anti-AIDS efforts with the country being warned its HIV/AIDS epidemic situation is critical.
At a high-profile conference in Beijing on Friday, they suggested China and the United States increase exchanges and cooperation in scientific research and personnel training to help address the issue of AIDS in China, which was potentially important for the global fight against the disease.
"China is at a critical time in HIV/AIDS control since the disease is spreading very rapidly from those with high-risk behaviors to the common people," Chinese Health Minister Zhang Wenkang told the Sino-US Conference on Research and Training in AIDS-related Areas.
Latest statistics from the Ministry of Health suggest that one million Chinese have been infected by HIV, the AIDS virus, since it was first detected in China in 1985.
"The infection figure could expand to 10 million by the year 2010 if we fail to take immediate action to control it," Zhang said. "We now have no time to waste."
Despite great efforts by the Chinese government and the whole society in the past decade to check the disease, China was still seriously lagging behind in meeting huge and growing demands for HIV/AIDS prevention and control, Zhang said.
He said Sino-US cooperation in AIDS-related areas would enormously benefit not only the Chinese people, but also global counter-HIV/AIDS campaigns.
Zhang's remarks were echoed by US ambassador to China Clark T. Randt Jr., who said HIV/AIDS was a global problem requiring global solutions.
The United States and China had a long history of working together on a broad range of medical issues, and HIV/AIDS had now become an important area, he said.
Sino-US cooperation against AIDS widened last June as Zhang Wenkang and his US counterpart, Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson, signed a Memorandum of Understanding in Washington D.C.
This called for increased collaboration in the development of effective intervention strategies to prevent HIV transmission.
"It lays the foundation for closer cooperative ties between us," Zhang said.
China has also obtained a five-year grant totaling US$14.8 million to participate in the Comprehensive International Program for Research on AIDS (CIPRA), initiated and sponsored by the US National Institute of Health (NIH) to support international research on practical and affordable methods for preventing and treating HIV/AIDS.
Undertaken by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the China CIPRA will focus on studies of epidemiological and transmission factors of HIV, behavioral intervention, pathogenesis of the virus, and the clinical study and development of new AIDS vaccines.
China CIPRA will collaborate with other ongoing NIH-sponsored HIV/AIDS programs in China, such as the HIV prevention trials network, HIV vaccine trials network, and international training and research programs.
(Xinhua News Agency November 2, 2002)