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UN Grants US$95 Million to Help War on AIDS

China has won a United Nations grant for US$95 million to fight HIV/AIDS , tuberculosis and malaria. It is the first time China has won money from the donor organization, which has supported many nations throughout the world.

The funds should provide substantial relief to the nation's HIV/AIDS victims, most of whom are stricken by poverty, according to the Ministry of Health sources who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The money, from the UN Global Fund to Fight AIDS, will be given to China for control and prevention of the deadly virus, which has infected 840,000 including an estimated 80,000 AIDS patients.

It is the first time China has won money from the donor organization, which has supported many nations throughout the world.

The grant is good news for China's HIV/AIDS victims, about 80 percent of whom live in remote and rural areas, said Jing Jun, a Tsinghua University professor. And about 70 percent of them cannot receive necessary medical treatment due to lack of money.

The Ministry of Finance and the State Administration of Taxation have jointly declared that China will not levy value-added taxes on imports of anti-HIV medicines through December 31, 2006, hoping to lessen the prices on the needed drugs.

Anti-HIV medicines produced by domestic enterprises are free of value-added taxes.

In recent years, the Chinese central government has invested more than US$15 million annually in prevention and control of HIV.

Gao Qiang, China's executive deputy minister of health, said last week that China is planning to offer free medical care to HIV carriers and AIDS patients in the country's rural areas and urban people in financial difficulties.

About 5,000 HIV carriers and AIDS patients in poverty would receive free treatment this year, and the free treatment would be available for all poor HIV carriers and AIDS patients next year, Gao said.

China planned to establish comprehensive prevention and treatment demonstration zones in 124 counties by the end of 2003, integrated measures including antiviral treatment, care and life assistance will be adopted for HIV/AIDS sufferers, Gao added.

The money from the global fund can also be used to fight tuberculosis and malaria, and will help run care centers in 124 HIV/AIDS stricken counties.

In another development, China's large number of AIDS patients might have access to the cheaper therapeutic "cocktail'' of protease inhibitors in the near future, Dr David Da-i Ho, developer of the therapy, told a summit on Monday.

Ho said the cost and prices for the "cocktail'' therapy have fallen internationally and the cost might drop to US$150 annually for developing countries from about US$500 after negotiating with relevant international medicine corporations.

However, Chinese patients are still denied such favorable prices because of factors like intellectual property rights, the pioneering AIDS researcher said.

Ho and former United States President Bill Clinton, who currently is working for the United Nations against HIV/AIDS, both said at an international AIDS and SARS summit at Tsinghua University they believed Chinese AIDS patients would "soon'' be given such prices.

(China Daily November 14, 2003)

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