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Sino-US Scheme Seeks AIDS Prevention

An international HIV/AIDS program that focuses on halting the spread of the virus was officially launched Tuesday in Beijing.


"The major strategy of our program is to prevent second-generation transmission of HIV from the existing carriers to more people," said Ray Yip, director of the China Office of the Global AIDS Program, run by the Centers for Disease Control in the United States.


However, in China, nearly 90 percent of the officially estimated 840,000 HIV/AIDS sufferers are not identified, creating a great barrier to prevent the spread of the virus, Yip said.


"Without knowing where the majority of these people with HIV are, how can we prevent them from infecting others or give them care?" he noted.


That is why identifying these unknown carriers has become a vital factor in the country's fight against HIV/AIDS, he said during the launching ceremony of China-US Cooperation on Prevention and Care for HIV/AIDS Project, part of the Global AIDS Program (GAP).


A total of 10 counties from Henan, the Tibet Autonomous Region and eight other provinces and regions have been selected as the pilot sites for the project.


The project will be undertaken in these regions in partnership with CARES, a national program that lists 51 HIV/AIDS-stricken counties as models in comprehensive care.


The CDC will invest a total of US$15 million in China in the next five years.


As a whole, the United States will donate US$35 million in the next five years to HIV/AIDS control projects jointly sponsored by the USA and China, said Clark Randt, US Ambassador to China.


Besides financial support, the GAP project will also implement advanced HIV/AIDS control strategies, especially in regards to preventing secondary transmission, said Qi Xiaoqiu, director of the Disease Control Department of the Ministry of Health.


One way to prevent secondary transmission is to attract unidentified HIV carriers to seek consultations and tests voluntarily, Yip said.


The project will contribute to the Chinese government’s efforts to provide comprehensive care, including free medical treatment, to HIV/AIDS victims in the model counties.


Yip said providing comprehensive care is a basic way of encouraging HIV carriers to come out for treatment without worrying about the expense of medicines.


The central government promised last year to provide medical treatment for poverty-stricken HIV/AIDS victims.


Meanwhile, the project will also develop proper and effective working methods in such areas as patients’ privacy, psychological support and human rights protection to dispel misgivings among HIV carriers and encourage people to be tested.


China should monitor and test people in high-risk groups, including drug users, sex workers and people who have illegally sold blood. Those groups make up the majority of the HIV/AIDS cases in China, Yip added.


China still has a window of opportunity to stop the rapid increase in infections, currently 32 percent a year, if it can take effective measures immediately to prevent the virus from spreading to the general population from the high-risk groups, said Yip.


(China Daily March 3, 2004)

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