The State Council, China's cabinet, has set up a top-level committee to coordinate the country's efforts to prevent and curb the spread of AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome), official sources said Thursday.
The organization, known as the AIDS Prevention Committee, is headed by Vice Premier Wu Yi and involves 23 departments and institutions of the central government and leading officials in seven provincial governments.
Addressing the first meeting of the committee, Wu said China should increase its sense of urgency in its efforts to prevent and curb the disease across the country.
AIDS has been on the rise in China, and it will have grave impact on the country's economic and social development and social stability unless it is brought under control before it is too late, said the vice premier, who is in charge of the country's Ministry of Health.
The committee was designed to improve the decisions of the central government concerning AIDS prevention and treatment, and to coordinate activities in areas hit hard by the disease, said the vice premier.
Wu said the committee will mainly be in charge of formulating major policies and programs regarding AIDS prevention and control. It will help resolve major issues in the battle against the disease, and mobilize departments and institutions of the central and local governments and society as a whole to fight AIDS effectively.
She said China will continue to implement its policies to offer free treatment to AIDS victims if they are farmers and to the needy in urban areas, and to provide free, anonymous blood tests for people in areas hit by the disease so as to have accurate information on the epidemic.
The country will continue to offer free education to orphans whose parents died of AIDS. Costs will be covered by local governments, said the vice premier.
She said the government will offer free AIDS consultations, screenings and treatment to pregnant women in state-designated areas to reduce AIDS transmission from mothers to their babies, and provide assistance to needy AIDS patients, while helping those capable of work to find jobs.
Wu vowed to expand the publicity campaign to increase public awareness of AIDS prevention and control, improve people's understanding of the disease, and fight prejudice against AIDS patients and HIV carriers.
China will continue its bid to intervene in the spread of AIDS by cracking down on prostitution and the use of illegal drugs, expanding research and international exchange and cooperation and increasing government funding for AIDS prevention and control programs.
(Xinhua News Agency February 27, 2004)