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Plans to Improve Care for Prisoners with AIDS
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Prisoners diagnosed with HIV/AIDS should be held in separate wards and receive comprehensive care, a new government draft plan says.

The ministries of Public Security, Health and Justice areworking on the plan intended to offer better care to HIV/AIDS sufferers who are suspected or found guilty of crime, said Hao Yang, deputy director-general of the Department of Disease Control of the Ministry of Health.

Hao said the plan would standardize what had been done in the past, such as free medical care for HIV/AIDS sufferers in prisons.

Moreover, the new plan seeks to improve the care offered to HIV-positive prisoners by taking into consideration, for example, any mental health problems linked to the deadly virus.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Public Security also said it is planning to call for separate wards for HIV/AIDS sufferers, according to a report published in the Oriental Outlook, a weekly put out by the Xinhua News Agency.

The report said the ministry would offer police officers more training on HIV/AIDS prevention and equip them with protective facilities.

But both ministries said there are no timetables for the plans. Since early 2003, the central government has provided free anti-HIV medicines for all people living with the virus, including those in prisons.

A pilot anti-HIV/AIDS program was also launched in five prisons across the country, Hao said.

He did not disclose where the five prisons were but said the program would be promoted nationwide.

In the pilot sites, he added, HIV/AIDS experts help the prisons train their doctors and other workers to better care for HIV carriers and protect themselves.

For example, medical staff in prisons are trained how to communicate with patients and treat infections caused by immunity loss.

They also learn how to take emergency measures against possible infection.

The draft plan might also ease the police headache of how to handle suspects with HIV/AIDS.

It is reported that some HIV/AIDS sufferers, detained in connection to theft, robbery or drug-trafficking, have used the disease to dodge punishment.

"They scratched the police officers or even tried to stab them with needles," a senior ministry official was quoted in the Xinhua weekly.

Wang Chen, a policeman in Nanjing, east China's Jiangsu Province, said his team caught a thief in January but had to release him after the suspect was found to be infected with HIV virus.

"We had no place to keep him," Wang was quoted as saying by the weekly.

Under such circumstances, the ministry said it would improve the facilities and protective equipments to prevent the disease from being used as "a cover for crime".

Official figures show that in September 2004, China had less than 90,000 people registered as HIV/AIDS sufferers, but the figure had doubled by the end of 2006. Experts estimate that China currently has at least 830,000 HIV carriers.

(China Daily April 4, 2007)

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