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AIDS Prevention Body Planned

China is considering setting up a new State-level AIDS prevention working committee in an effort to check the spread of the disease.

A plan for the committee has been submitted to the State Council and is awaiting final approval, according to sources Thursday.

The new committee will be responsible for drafting policies and regulations for AIDS prevention, coordinating in related major issues and mobilizing public resources used in AIDS prevention.

The establishment of the committee will improve an existing mechanism to coordinate conferences and information among ministries and central government departments.

Vice-Premier and Minister of Health Wu Yi will likely head the committee. Executive Deputy Minister of Health Gao Qiang and Vice Secretary-General of the State Council Xu Shaoshi will be vice-directors.

The latest figures from the Ministry of Health show there are 840,000 HIV/AIDS carriers on the Chinese mainland, of whom 80,000 suffer from full-blown AIDS.

As the number of HIV carriers has rapidly increased, the virus has spread from high-risk groups like drug abusers into the wider population.

Experts warn that more than 10 million Chinese may be HIV-positive by 2010 unless effective countermeasures are taken.

Minister Gao Qiang said last year that HIV/AIDS in China has not been controlled and prevention and treatment still face tough hurdles.

While the committee looks to coordinate and share information, the State Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine is pushing a plan that will provide free medical treatment for 3,000 impoverished HIV/AIDS patients.

With 9 million yuan (US$1.1 million) already secured, the administration is lobbying for a further 20 million yuan (US$2.4 million) from State coffers to carry out the plan.

With those funds, traditional Chinese medicine clinics focusing on HIV/AIDS will be set up by the end of 2005 in Henan and Hubei provinces in central China, Hebei Province in north China, Anhui Province in east China and Guangdong Province in south China.

The administration has already started to prepare treatments, train doctors and arrange for the construction of the clinics.

The potential of traditional Chinese medicine in the treatment of HIV/AIDS has been tapped with unprecedented enthusiasm in recent years. Cheaper than Western medicine, it has won a reputation for effectively enhancing patients' immune systems, easing symptoms and controlling the advance of the disease.

Chinese researchers and doctors hope to produce two or three new types of traditional Chinese medicine to treat HIV/AIDS in three years and develop relatively mature treatments.

(China Daily February 20, 2004)

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