Several critical steps will be taken this year to solve problems in the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS, senior officials said on Friday.
"One question is that we are still blind about some vital aspects of HIV/AIDS control," said Wang Longde, vice minister of health.
For example, only 12.7 percent of the estimated 840,000 HIV carriers are registered with the health authorities.
Disease control centers only have detailed records of 35,000 HIV/AIDS sufferers, Wang said.
There should be a national database of patients' medical records to make treatment more efficient.
"If we do not even know the number of CD4 cells, which is an important criterion to describe the condition of a patient's immunity loss, how can doctors give proper medicines to patients?" Wang said.
The Ministry of Health has vowed to establish this kind of database, with entries for every reported HIV/AIDS patient.
Doctors will be able to use the information to work out when to administer anti-viral medicines, and in what doses.
About 15,000 patients have already benefited from the policy of providing free anti-viral drugs to all HIV/AIDS sufferers.
Hao Yang, vice director of the Disease Control Department of the Ministry of Health, said there are only about 200 professional health workers engaged in HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention at the moment.
Many doctors who are employed in this field have not been well trained in taking care of HIV/AIDS patients, he said.
But more than 1,900 teams have been established in various counties and regions to screen for HIV, build up the patient database and provide medical services such as follow-up checks, according to Wang.
To identify more HIV/AIDS cases, every province will offer free, voluntary tests for the HIV virus this year, Wang said.
As the virus is moving from high-risk groups to the general population, China will continue its efforts to test even more people in these groups, such as blood sellers, drug abusers, prostitutes and homosexuals.
Yunnan Province, one of the most seriously affected areas of the country, has recently finished testing 410,000 high-risk people.
The drafting of China's first HIV/AIDS prevention and control regulation has almost been finished, and will be given to the State Council for further discussion this May.
The regulation will mainly set out the rights and duties of regional governments and residents in controlling the deadly disease, said Hao Yang.
"I suggest that the regulation should have a clear and practical item to punish those people or institutes who discriminate against HIV/AIDS sufferers," said Shao Yiming, a leading expert at the National Center for AIDS/STD (sexually transmitted disease) Control and Prevention.
(China Daily March 19, 2005)