The Chinese government on Sunday made public a new regulation on HIV/AIDS prevention and control, and pledged to exert more efforts to eventually winning the fight against the deadly disease.
The Regulation on AIDS Prevention and Control, issued by the State Council, or the central government, on January 18, will take effect from March 1.
"I am pleased to see the final report, which constitutes a crucial part of the country's overall anti-AIDS strategy," said Joel Rehnstrom, country coordinator of UNAIDS China office, in an interview with Xinhua.
"This indicates a good progress, showing the strong commitment of the Chinese leadership," he said.
The issue of AIDS is not only an issue of public health but also an issue of society, which is related to numerous factors like anti-drug combat and behaviors of special groups, noted an official in charge of the Legislative Affairs Office under the State Council. He asked not to be named.
On January 25, China announced new estimated AIDS figures jointly worked out by the Ministry of Health, UNAIDS and the World Health Organization (WHO).
According to the report, there are currently 650,000 HIV/AIDS cases including 75,000 AIDS patients in China.
Although the figure is almost 200,000 less than in 2003, experts have warned the situation is not actually improving.
"Governments must shoulder the main responsibilities in the prevention and control of AIDS," the Chinese official said.
According to the regulation, governments above the county level must lead the prevention and control of HIV/AIDS, including setting up a coordinating mechanism, specifying responsibilities and giving supervision to the relevant departments.
Prevention and control also requires extensive cooperation from every citizen, especially grassroots units and citizen groups, the official acknowledged.
Local governments need to work more to pool resources, according to Wiwat Rojanapithayakorn, HIV/AIDS team leader of the WHO China office.
Besides specifying duties of governments, the regulation also lists the rights and obligations of people living with HIV/AIDS and AIDS patients.
"Protection of their rights and balancing those rights with obligations were key considerations when drafting the regulation," the Chinese official told Xinhua.
According to the regulation, no working unit or individual can discriminate against people living with HIV/AIDS, AIDS patients and their relatives. Their rights of marriage, employment, medical care and education are protected by law.
For instance, no organization or individual can disclose the names, addresses and work places of people living with HIV/AIDS,AIDS patients and their relatives without permission.
With regard to testing, voluntary testing needs to be ensured in the control of HIV/AIDS, Rehnstrom said.
Meanwhile, people living with HIV/AIDS and AIDS patients should fulfill a few obligations, according to the regulation, including informing their sexual partners and doctors of their condition, and taking the necessary measures against possibly infecting others.
"Those who are found to have deliberately spread the disease will be accused in line with civil or criminal laws," the Chinese official said.
However, given full access to education, treatment and a sound living environment, most patients will not intentionally spread the disease, Rehnstrom said, adding that "they just want to live as normal members of society."
(Xinhua News Agency February 13, 2006)