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Top Firms Close Ranks Against AIDS, TB
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Some of global business' biggest names have linked up with the Chinese government to help 5 million migrant workers in Guangdong Province avoid or fight tuberculosis (TB) and HIV/AIDS.


The China Health Alliance, launched yesterday in Beijing, will coordinate the project in the southern province from this autumn.


Founding members of the alliance include global consultant Accenture, pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, medical technology provider BD (Becton, Dickinson and Company) and the China National Textiles and Apparel Council.


The services offered include education, medical tests, treatment and support, Francesca Boldrini, director of the Global Health Initiative of the World Economic Forum, told China Daily yesterday.


The forum will work with the alliance to tackle AIDS and TB at grassroots level, with the program expected to extend to other regions in two years.


Migrant workers from rural areas account for 80 percent of TB cases in China; and with the heavy urban migration rate rising, curbing the spread of large-scale TB and HIV infection is an immense challenge.


The China Health Alliance is expected to bring together member companies, the Chinese government, UN agencies and non-governmental organizations in order to respond to the growing economic and social threats AIDS and TB pose to the country.


"The pilot program in Guangdong will specifically target migrant workers employed by suppliers of a number of member companies," Boldrini said.


"Migrant workers are the toughest to reach with policies and programs. Business is ideally placed to reach out to them and this is why we believe the China Health Alliance is a major step," she said.


The member companies vowed to adopt non-discriminative policies toward TB, HIV and AIDS patients.


Boldrini added that their experience proved that when the public and private sectors work together to tackle disease, the impact is noticeable.


China ranks second in the world behind India for the number of TB infections. It is estimated that a staggering 45 percent of the Chinese population is infected with a latent form of TB. The current number of active cases stands at 4.5 million, representing 15 percent of the global total.


The HIV/AIDS epidemic continues to grow in China. It is estimated that 650,000 people were living with HIV last year in China. Of them, 70,000 were new infections, according to figures provided by Wu Zunyou, director of the venereal disease and AIDS prevention and control center under the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention.


Two months ago, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria was launched in the country with US$120 million promised over the next five years to help tackle the three deadly diseases.


(China Daily September 12, 2006)

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