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Enhanced Efforts to Combat AIDS
China will make more efforts to contain the rapidly increasing spread of HIV/AIDS in the country, which had an estimated 1 million HIV/AIDS cases by the end of this June, Health Minister Zhang Wenkang said Tuesday.

Health circles in China, including officials and various organizations, will work harder to improve public understanding of HIV/AIDS and its victims, said Zhang Wenkang Tuesday.

A pilot project of comprehensive care and treatment for HIV/AIDS will be carried out in 100 key areas where the disease is spreading, such as some regions in Southwest China's Yunnan Province, which has the largest number of HIV cases, to gradually establish enlightened social attitudes towards HIV victims.

The Ministry of Health plan to establish a scientific and modern forecast system and model to strengthen the monitoring work over the epidemic situation of HIV/AIDS in China.

China has listed HIV/AIDS prevention and control research as key State scientific research projects. And Chinese medical experts are searching for a better treatment measures for AIDS using traditional Chinese medicine.

At the same time, China has also established a "green" channel for the import of HIV/AIDS medicines from abroad. There will be no tariff charges on foreign HIV/AIDS medicines coming into the country.

The first half of 2002 saw a 16.7 per cent increase in HIV carriers from total figures for the end of 2001. The increase rate from 2000 to 2001 was 58 per cent, and there are now nearly 100,000 AIDS patients in China, an official report said Tuesday.

About 68 per cent of all HIV/AIDS cases are caused by infected needles used by drug addicts, according to the Ministry of Health.

Infection resulting from plasma collection and blood transfusions, where part of the blood taken is reinjected in donors, is the second biggest cause of infection, accounting for 11.2 per cent of the total, and unprotected sex accounts for 7.2 per cent of AIDS infections.

Of the total number of victims, 13.4 per cent do not know the source of their infection, said the official document issued Tuesday.

Experts warned that the numbers could hit 10 million by 2010 unless effective measures are taken immediately.

China's central government, its branches at various levels and various social groups have devoted a great deal of time, energy and money to fighting the disease and taking care of HIV/AIDS victims in recent years, according to Zhang.

The State Council issued a long-term plan in 1998 for HIV/AIDS control to 2010 that includes a series of prevention measures such as ensuring the safety of medical blood supplies, and clamping down on drug abuse and prostitution.

In 2001, the central government increased its special budget for HIV/AIDS prevention and control from 15 million yuan (US$1.8 million) to 100 million (US$12 million).

Last year, 2.25 billion yuan (US$271 million) was invested by the central government to improve the condition of blood collection stations and establish more blood storage centres.

China has also streamlined the manufacture of domestic HIV/AIDS medicines to lower prices and make the medicines more affordable.

Kedu, a legal imitation of zidovudine which is widely known as AZT, went on sale in tablet and capsule form across the nation in early September.

The medicine, produced by Northeast China Pharmaceuticals Group Company, should held bring down the annual medical expenditures of AIDS patients and HIV carriers to less than 10,000 yuan (US$1,200).

The launch of the medicine brings an end to the country's total reliance on imported AIDS drugs.

AIDS patients and HIV carriers can get a cocktail treatment at Beijing You'an Hospital at a monthly cost of from 2,500 yuan (US$300) to 3,000 yuan (US$360).

The State Council is organizing officials and experts to draft laws and regulations about HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases, such as HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control Management Regulations, to deal with various problems associated with the diseases.

(China Daily October 16,2002 )

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