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Project Pools Social Sources to Fight AIDS
A major public welfare program was launched in Beijing on Friday to support Chinese authorities in their fight against the deadly disease HIV/AIDS.

The program, called "121 United Project,'' aims to pool society's efforts in combating the virus which by the end of last year had infected more than 1 million Chinese people, with the infection rate rising by 30 per cent annually, said Zeng Yi.

Zeng, director of the Chinese Foundation for Prevention of STDs (Sexually Transmitted Diseases) and AIDS, presided over the opening ceremony of the program which is sponsored by his Foundation.

The project also has the support of about 30 ministries including the Ministry of Education, 48 community groups including China Charity Federation, more than 40 media outlets, and many international organizations such as the World Health Organization.

The ceremony also marked the opening of the "121 AIDS Centre for Collecting Donations'' under the foundation. A donation hot line (8610--66094121) has been set up to collect both domestic and overseas donations.

"The program will be vital in preventing and controlling the HIV/AIDS epidemic which needs a collective response from individuals and businesses as well as the government,'' said Vice-Minister Ma Xiaowei at the ceremony.

The annual central government budget for HIV/AIDS prevention and control has increased from 15 million yuan (US$1.8 million) by 2001 to 100 million (US$12 million) since then.

However, the budget is so limited given the number of HIV victims and AIDS patients that most fail to receive good medical treatment or social understanding, particularly in under-developed areas.

Most of the donations will go towards emergency relief for HIV/AIDS victims who would otherwise go without medical treatment or children orphaned by HIV/AIDS, Zeng noted.

Public health activities including advertisements and consultations will also be held, with the media's help, to improve public awareness of the disease and provide more understanding of and support for HIV/AIDS victims.

The donations will also be used to support research into new medicines and vaccines for AIDS, and to recognize people who have made outstanding contributions to the prevention and control of the disastrous virus.

Zeng warned that the deadly epidemic could affect 10 million people by 2010 -- potentially more than in any other country -- unless better prevention measures are taken immediately.

The State Council has issued a long-term plan for HIV/AIDS control from 1998 to 2010, which focuses on preventive measures such as ensuring the safety of blood supplies, fighting drug abuse and prostitution.

(China Daily March 29, 2003)

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