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Crucial Period for AIDS Prevention

China's AIDS prevention and control work is at a crucial stage, said Vice Premier Wu Yi at a national work conference on AIDS prevention held in Beijing on Tuesday and Wednesday. Stressing the extreme importance and emergency of curbing the quick spread of the deadly disease, Wu said if no effective prevention and control measures are taken, "the consequences will be very grievous."

China's fight against HIV/AIDS has lasted 19 years, since the first case of HIV infection was reported in 1985. The Ministry of Health's assessment report on AIDS prevention and control indicates that HIV is an epidemic affecting all the mainland's 31 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities. There are 840,000 HIV carriers, of whom 80,000 suffer from AIDS.

"The number of HIV carriers has rapidly increased, and the virus has been epidemic not only among high-risk groups, but also among normal people," said Dai Zhicheng, vice chairman of the China Sexually Transmitted Diseases and AIDS Prevention and Control Association.

Experts warn that over 10 million Chinese will be HIV-positive in 2010 unless effective countermeasures are taken.

Wu Yi, also head of a national committee for AIDS prevention, is widely praised for her tough stance in last year's fight against SARS. She vowed at the meeting to push the publicity campaign to increase awareness of AIDS prevention and control among the general public as well as high-risk groups, improve their understanding of the disease and fight prejudice against AIDS patients and HIV carriers.

"The AIDS epidemic severely affects people's health and life as well as economic and social development," she said, noting the Communist Party of China and the State Council consider the issue extremely important.

The government has implemented a number of measures, including free treatment for the indigent ill, the establishment of AIDS control centers, the legislation of AIDS-related laws and international cooperation.

"We should enhance management of blood banks, strictly crack down on illegal blood collection and eliminate in-hospital infection to curb virus spread through blood transfusions," she said.

Firm measures should be taken to restrain prostitution as well as the use and sale of banned drugs.

All departments should make timely and honest reports on the epidemic situation, and any hiding or delaying of epidemic reports will be punished, she said.

The government, using law and science to implement AIDS prevention and control, should motivate social forces to establish new mechanisms for AIDS prevention, she said.

(Xinhua News Agency April 8, 2004)

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