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New Approach to AIDS Prevention

Following concern from high-level leaders and unprecedented attention from the public, China's HIV/ AIDS prevention has entered the stage of legislation.

At a symposium on HIV/AIDS prevention held in Beijing Friday, experts and leaders from concerned departments all agreed the most urgent issue in China's HIV/AIDS prevention was legislation.
China has made laws and regulations on HIV/AIDS prevention, local or national, since 1985 when the first AIDS patient was reported in the country. However, the regulations were flawed, and tried to stop the epidemic through attacking HIV victims, said Yang Shaogang, from Shanghai Counselors' Office.

The symposium was held by the Counselors' Office of the State Council, to discuss numerous suggestions submitted by Shanghai Counselors' Office after nearly three years' investigation.

"Our present regulations rarely consider the rights and protection of HIV victims but take tough measures against them," Yang said.

In the early days, many regulations in China got off on the wrong track as people were frightened and believed only severe measures could stop the spread of the disease.

The shanghai Counselors' Office said in their suggestions that it was urgent that China enact laws on HIV/AIDS prevention.

Shanghai municipal People's Congress has started to do research on AIDS legislation, said Vice Mayor Yang Xiaodu on Thursday when the nation's first Research Center on AIDS-related Laws opened at Shanghai University.

Yang Shaogang is the director of the new center, which will advise government on related legislation, provide free legal help for AIDS patients and HIV carriers, and conduct surveys on China's legal right protection situation of HIV carriers.

As an academic research institute, the center enlists renowned local law professors as well as social AIDS activists. Gao Yaojie, China's leading AIDS activist, was hired as an consultant.

Officials from the Ministry of Health said there were 840,000 HIV carriers and AIDS patients in China.

"The estimated number of HIV carriers in China is 840,000, but the recorded figure is only about 60,000, which causes big problems in China's AIDS campaign," said Shen Jie, deputy director of the China Disease Prevention and Control Center.

To prevent the country from being jeopardized by the AIDS epidemic, the Chinese government has promised to implement a series of preventative measures, including free anti-retroviral treatment to poor AIDS patients.

Shen also called for stronger education about high risk behaviors. Study show intravenous drug use is still the major transmission channel for AIDS in China. But in the next few years, heterosexual contact will become the major channel.

Shen said China now has about 1.05 million drug addicts, but only 40 percent of them received education about AIDS.

"Measures like clean needle distribution and condom use are still under trial in limited places," Shen said.

The shanghai Counselors' Office also advised on different ways to encourage condom use.

According to Yang, some police took condoms as evidence of prostitution, which has discouraged the use of condoms in the sex industry.

(Shanghai Daily March 27, 2004)

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