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China Takes Bold Steps to Fight AIDS

With an estimated 840,000 people infected with HIV and the transmission far from contained, China has started to openly advocate behavior intervention to the high risk population.

"China should constantly promote effective intervention measures (to prevent the spread of AIDS)," said Chinese Vice-Premier Wu Yi at a national working meeting on AIDS closed Wednesday.

"This is an unprecedented move. The intervention measures have never been advocated with such a clear attitude," Shen Jie, director of China's National Center for AIDS/STD Control Prevention, told Xinhua on Thursday.

The intervention measures referred to by Wu included condom use,needle exchange and methadone maintenance therapy, which had aroused disputes from some government departments and the public.

According to reports from the UN Country Team in China, nearly 64 percent of China' total reported HIV/AIDS cases to date were caused by the sharing of infected needles during injected drug use.More recently, there has been a large increase in the number of people infected through illegal commercial sex, especially in coastal areas in east and south China and in big cities.

This form of transmission in China increases the risk of HIV/AIDS spreading to the general population, said Shen, who is also deputy director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Intervention to high-risk behaviors have proved effective in preventing people from being infected with HIV.

For years, such measures have been carried out by China's health workers under acquiescence of the department of public security, said Shen.

In recent years, the two departments started to jointly exploremethods of effective behavior intervention.

In 2001, with support from the World Health Organization, Wuhanof Hubei Province and Jingjiang of Jiangsu Province began a pilot study to promote 100 percent condom use.

In 2002, a pilot project for the marketing of syringes and needles was conducted in China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region and Guangdong Province. Staff from the local center for disease control and prevention supervised the collection of used needles and syringes.

"Now differences in this aspect between the health and public security departments have been bridged," said Deputy-Health Ministry Wang Longde.

(Xinhua News Agency April 8, 2004)

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