With the number of AIDS cases around the world growing dramatically, tolerance and understanding are the themes of this year's World AIDS Day, which takes place on Sunday.
While "live, let live" is the international theme for the day, "learn and avoid," could be a better theme in China where the number of AIDS cases is growing but understanding of the disease, even in big, developed cities like Shanghai, is disturbingly low.
As of October, 148 new HIV or AIDS patients had been recorded in Shanghai, bringing the official number of those carrying the virus in the city to 685 -- a number few experts put much faith in.
While the number of people affected by the disease climbs, "the public is still lacking enough knowledge on AIDS and how to prevent it," said Wei Longgong, a spokesman for the Shanghai Population and Family Planning Commission.
A recent survey by the commission discovered that only 16 percent of local residents know that using condoms is the most effective method of preventing AIDS.
The commission said yesterday that it will promote AIDS education in local neighborhoods, send out more free condoms and set up more condom vending machines next year. As bad as the situation is, health experts say education about AIDS is already showing some results in the city as a growing number of people are taking voluntary HIV tests to see if they are infected with the virus.
"About 14.6 percent of the carriers found this year were detected through this method, which increased rather quickly," said Yuan Zheng'an, deputy director of the Shanghai Municipal Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Tomorrow, more than 200 medical experts will provide free consultation on the prevention and control of AIDS at New Century Plaza along the Nanjing Road Pedestrian Mall. Hundreds of local university students will also go to commercial centers to pass out pamphlets on AIDS.
Education programs will discuss ways the disease is spread -- sex, dirty needles, blood products and from mother to infant.
Drug use is a leading reason for the spread of HIV in China. The government says 1 million people have been infected.
As a result, it is crucial to set up a social system to protect the carriers and patients, providing them with treatment and encouraging them to face the reality and improve their quality of life, experts said.
(eastday.com November 30, 2002)