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Hubei to Help AIDS Patients

Central China's Hubei Province plans to provide free antiviral therapy to all HIV carriers and anti-retroviral treatment to impoverished AIDS patients, said Vice Governor Zhou Jianwei at an HIV/AIDS prevention and control conference last week.

Farmers who are carriers are exempt from the agriculture tax and surcharges and, along with poor urban victims, will receive subsidies from local governments, said Zhou.

Most of the HIV/AIDS sufferers in Hubei are living in straitened circumstances. A recent survey shows that the average income of HIV-positive residents of nine counties and cities in Hubei is less than 640 yuan (US$77) a year.

Promising that the province will provide more help to all HIV/AIDS victims, Zhou said the government would treat the cost of antiviral treatment as basic medical expenditure in urban medical insurance.

In addition, pregnant women will be eligible for free HIV tests; if they test positive, they will get free treatment. Those who elect to terminate the pregnancy may do so for no fee.

Orphans who suffer HIV/AIDS will be entitled to living subsidies and will be placed in special orphanages. They can also get free medical treatment.

Experts point out that Hubei risks a rapid increase in the number of HIV/AIDS victims. More than 50 counties and cities in the province have reported HIV/AIDS case--a total of 1,301 at the end of last year, almost double the figure for 2002.

Estimates put the number of sufferers in Hubei at a minimum of 45,000. About half are likely to develop full-blown AIDS or reach the terminal stage.

The death toll among AIDS patients last year alone accounted for 55 percent of the total number since the province reported its first case in the late 1980s.

The Hubei government has set up a working committee comprising 32 departments to address prevention and control of the disease, said Zhu Zhonghua, head of the provincial health department.

The working committee will dispatch 10 task forces by the end of this month. They will be stationed in 21 counties and cities to provide year-round treatment and care.

(China Daily March 15, 2004)

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