Experts revealed that a number of special community drug treatment centers will be set up in Beijing and other major cities to help addicts kick the habit, also helping to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS through drug abuse.
Addicts attending the clinics will be able to receive medical treatment and obtain clean syringes, helping them lead a normal life, said Wu Zunyou, from the National Center for AIDS/STD (sexually transmitted disease) Control and Prevention.
It is illegal in China to trade and take narcotics.
Drug addicts are currently placed in restrictive rehabilitation centers, either by the government or their families, where they are forced to kick the habit.
However, this measure has proved far from successful. Drug addicts normally return to their bad habits after they leave the center, or fail to admit to the addiction for fear of being sent to such a center in the first place.
As a result, HIV is easily spread through the sharing of dirty needles.
Wu pointed out that the pilot clinics have the support of various government departments, including public security.
Following the pilots, the center and the Ministry of Health plan to open clinics across the country within the next five years, Wu told China Daily.
He added that the clinics will be set up away from noisy and crowded public places such as schools and shopping centers in order to protect patients' privacy.
The Ministry of Health reported that, by June 2002, China had one million cases of HIV/AIDS.
Experts warn that the number could reach 10 million by 2010 unless effective measures are taken.
Even if the virus spreads slowly, that number may still hit 2.2 million by 2010.
The annual increase in HIV/AIDS cases is currently 30 percent. All 31 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities across the country have seen HIV cases.
Drug abuse, sexual intercourse, homosexuality, and unsafe blood transfusion and injection are the main channels for the spread of the virus.
As the main cause of the epidemic, the sharing of needles by drug addicts currently accounts for 70 percent of HIV cases.
In Southwest China's Yunnan Province, Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region and South China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, about 70 to 80 percent of drug addicts have been infected by HIV.
The first outbreak of HIV in China took place in 1989 among drug addicts in some remote regions of Yunnan Province where drug abuse was already a problem.
However, at that time, it would take three days for people in these regions to go to Kunming, capital city of Yunnan, from their home towns. As a result, the epidemic did not stir enough attention from relevant authorities. Fast development of communications has led to a faster spread of the deadly virus.
Most HIV/AIDS victims are currently in rural and remote areas.
(China Daily February 24, 2003)