The latest part of a needle exchange program financed by Australia was launched on November 23. The project, working in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, will set up six needle exchanges in the cities of Nanning, Liuzhou, Bose, Wuzhou and the counties of Lingshan and Hepu.
Sharing injecting equipment is a very easy way of transmitting HIV, and the needle exchanges will provide clean, free equipment to injecting drug users in order to reduce its spread.
The overall program aims to reduce the impact of AIDS in China, Vietnam and Myanmar, and to fund the distribution of information, condoms and injecting equipment as well as training. Guangxi and Yunnan Province, both in southern China, were selected as locations for 10 needle exchanges.
Huang Ling, a program coordinator, emphasized that the idea of the exchanges is not to encourage drug use but to make sure people who are drug-dependent "avoid being infected with HIV via shared needles and thus reduce the risk of its being spread further."
About 3,000 registered drug users in Guangxi will be able to exchange clean needles through the six centers, Huang added.
Other international assistance was also highlighted on Wednesday when Sheila Paskman, spokesperson for the US Embassy in Beijing, said that Americans are happy to work with the people of China on building a future free of the pain and trouble caused by HIV/AIDS.
The US government began a special relief fund to China in 2003 to support prevention and control efforts. By 2007, the total grant is expected to amount to US$35 million, she said.
Given that the AIDS epidemic has spread worldwide, it's very encouraging to see people from both the US and China working together, she added.
(Xinhua News Agency December 2, 2004)