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206 New Methadone Clinics in Anti-AIDS Effort
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China opened 206 methadone clinics between July and September this year bringing the nationwide total to 307 in a bid to curb the spread of HIV/AIDS through contaminated needles used by drug addicts, the Ministry of Health said on Thursday.

Forty-four percent of an estimated 650,000 Chinese people living with HIV/AIDS are drug users, according to a report released by the ministry earlier this year.

Methadone is widely used as a substitute for heroin to help addicts kick their habit.

Wu Zunyou, an official at the Chinese Center for Diseases Control and Prevention, added that all 307 clinics were opened ahead of schedule.

He said that the swift establishment of the clinic could reduce the intake of heroin by over 1,000 kilograms.

The methadone treatment program, which was initiated in 2003, now covers about two thirds of all China's 31 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities. At the clinics, a cup of methadone drink usually costs 10 yuan (US$1.26).

Wu said China plans to set up methadone clinics in cities and counties with over 500 registered drug users by the end of 2007.

Health experts said that the initiative can help to rein in drug use and prevent the spread of HIV from high-risk drug users to the general population.

To curb the rising national HIV infection rate, the central and local governments have more than doubled funding for prevention and treatment to 1.08 billion yuan (US$136.5 million) in 2005, up from 490 million yuan (US$61.9 million) in 2003.

According to the United Nations AIDS agency UNAIDS, about 65 million people worldwide are infected with HIV, and AIDS has killed more than 25 million since it was first recognized in 1981.

(Xinhua News Agency October 20, 2006)

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