The number of counties advanced to "model" ranking in comprehensive prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS will be increased to 127 from 51 by the end of 2003, a Xinhua report said on Saturday.
The nation already has 51 such counties in areas that have been hit hard by the deadly disease. In those areas, the Health Ministry has launched wide-ranging initiatives that include education, treatment, consultation and patients' considerations.
The nation is also committed to offering free treatment to HIV carriers and AIDS patients in rural areas and to people in urban AIDS-infected areas who face financial difficulties.
And around 5,000 HIV carriers and AIDS patients living in poverty will receive such free treatment this year, and it is expected to be available for all poor HIV/AIDS victims next year, according to health officials.
Ministry statistics show that China has roughly 840,000 people with HIV/AIDS, including 80,000 HIV/AIDS patients, through the end of September.
However, about 70 percent of the victims are too poor to afford the medical care they require, said Li Liming, director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
The ministry has also pledged to offer free medicine to patients with economic woes and to exempt their children from school fees.
Apart from government assistance, China's AIDS victims might also have access to the cheaper drug "cocktail therapy" in the near future, said David Da-i Ho, developer of the therapy. He said at a press conference in Beijing on Friday that the cost and prices for the treatment have fallen internationally and may drop to US$150 for one patient annually in developing countries if negotiations with relevant international medicine corporations succeed.
According to Wei Jian'an, a professor with the Chinese Academy of Traditional Chinese Medicine, currently only 5 percent of HIV/AIDS patients in China can afford this expensive therapy with the cost of US$300-500 per year in developing countries.
However, Chinese patients are denied favorable prices because of factors like intellectual property rights, said Ho, expressing optimism that Chinese HIV/AIDS patients will "soon" be offered such prices.
(China Daily November 10, 2003)