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Education Project on AIDS Prevention Launched

Some 1,300 volunteers from China's medical universities will head to the country's rural areas, teaching villagers how to prevent AIDS during their summer vacation.

The activity is part of a massive education project initiated Saturday by 12 government departments, ministries and organizations, in a bid to sharpen public awareness of AIDS, especially among rural residents, youths and women.

The volunteers would go to the country's 127 pilot zones for AIDS prevention, where AIDS epidemic are relatively serious and the government's policies including free anti-retroviral drugs and free counseling are being practiced, Vice Health Minister Wang Longde said at the start-up ceremony of the project.

Meanwhile, millions of posters on AIDS prevention will be distributed to villages, urban communities, universities and high schools across the country.

Wang said the posters varied with different target groups. Those for rural and urban residents mainly focused on preventative knowledge and government policies, and those for university and high school students included anti-drug information besides AIDS knowledge.

In addition, the project also included a "face-to-face" education plan on AIDS prevention for women aged between 15 to 49 in 51 counties, the first batch of places selected as the pilot zones for AIDS prevention.

China reported its first AIDS case in 1985. By the end of 2003,the estimated number of HIV carriers in China reached 840,000 and the number is still growing.

Wang said China is facing serious AIDS threat and its anti-AIDS campaign is at the critical moment. "Improving public awareness and enhancing education is an effective way in preventing the spread of the epidemic."

Khalid Malik, the United Nations resident coordinator in China, said the project marked one of the biggest initiatives in the world to prevent the spread of AIDS.

The implementation of the project would help reduce social stigma to AIDS patients and improve public awareness of AIDS, said Malik, who is also resident representative of the United Nations Development Program in China. "The project is of landmark meaning in the global fight against AIDS."

(Xinhua News Agency July 11, 2004)

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