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China Plans Database of HIV/AIDS Victims

China plans to set up a national database containing the records of its HIV/AIDS victims in a bid to get a better grip of the extent of the epidemic.

The Ministry of Health had vowed to establish the database, with entries for every reported HIV/AIDS patient, the Xinhua news agency reported.

"One question is that we are still blind about some vital aspects of HIV/AIDS control," said Wang Longde, vice-minister of health.

China has an estimated 840,000 HIV carriers -- a figure disputed by many independent observers -- and the government has precise knowledge of only a small percentage even of that conservative number of patients.

A mere 12.7 percent were registered with the health authorities, and disease control centers only had detailed records of 4.2 percent, according to Xinhua.

The draft of China's first HIV/AIDS prevention and control regulation had almost been completed and would be given to the State Council for further discussion this May, the agency said.

The regulation would mainly set out the rights and duties of regional governments and residents in controlling the deadly disease, according to Xinhua.

To identify more HIV/AIDS cases, every province would offer free, voluntary tests for the HIV virus this year, Wang said.

In a sign of future policies, southwestern Yunnan province, one of the most seriously affected areas of the country, recently finished testing 410,000 high-risk people.

While China is groping in the dark as it tries to cope with its looming AIDS disaster, it is also hampered by a lack of resources.

Hao Yang, vice-director of the health ministry's Disease Control Department, told Xinhua there were 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.

The United Nations has predicted 10 million cases in China in five years' time if the epidemic goes unchecked.

HIV/AIDS is already moving from high-risk groups to the general public in China, the coalition said.

The primary transmission route in China is through drug injection, but the proportion of sexually transmitted HIV infections and mother-to-child transmissions has rapidly increased in recent years.

Many others were infected through insanitary blood-buying schemes in the early 1990s.

(China Daily March 21, 2005)


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