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Facing AIDS, Silence is Death
In the first half of 2002 China saw a growth of 16.7 percent AIDS infected people over the same period of previous year, with an estimated total number of HIV carriers reaching almost 1 million, the Ministry of Public Health said. The number will further exceed 10 million in a few years if no effective measure is taken, experts warned.

From 1985 to September 2001, among HIV/AIDS infected people nationwide, 7.0 percent was through blood transfusion or blood-related products, 0.2 percent through mother-to-child channel, 6.7 percent through sexual behavior between men and women and 0.2 percent through homosexuality. AIDS began to spread from high-risk population-drug takers, prostitutes and prostitute visitors-to common people.

More people will become captives of AIDS and we will all be potential victims to the deadly disease if we can not break away quickly enough from traditional way of thought.

AIDS is now spreading from high-risk population to common people at an astonishing speed. The prevention and concern over the patients have become a social responsibility of everybody transcending medical problem only.

China Marks World AIDS Day

People are still lack of prevention knowledge despite seriousness of epidemic

According to a poll by the State Family Planning Commission, nearly 20 percent people questioned say they never heard of AIDS and 71.8 percent know that AIDS is infectious while 26 percent know nothing about the infection channels. People also have limited knowledge on its prevention, as 62.1 percent say the disease can be prevented, but only few can give completely correct answers as how to do it. As high as 47.6 percent people never worry about being infected, and only very few know that "cautious blood (products) transfusion", "correct use of condom" and "use of disposable needle and syringe" are also ways to prevent the disease. As a result, most people still believe that only those indulge in licentious sexual intercourse are prone to contract AIDS.

How much on earth does the public know about AIDS? A simple fact is sufficient. The nation put out its first AIDS education documentary only this year, almost 20 years later than the first cases were reported in the 80s. In many rural areas, the people are either turned pale at the mention of, or totally ignorant of the disease, and that's why the epidemic made it its hotbed first there.

Throw away banal ideas and cut off the spreading channels of AIDS

When the spread of AIDS is becoming more and more a worldwide serious social problem, many of our people take an indifferent attitude towards or condemn AIDS patients and, in a sense, even give tacit consent to it as a punishment to the special group. An invisible high wall was then built up between AIDS group and common people which has in one way or another hampered the implementation of anti-AIDS strategies.

A typical example is that the World Health Organization (WHO) once funded a pilot project in which condoms were distributed in certain entertainment places to prevent the disease. Though cautiously organized and kept in a low key, the activity still triggered off indignation from local citizens, who criticized it as being of no difference from tolerating prostitution as legal and therefore going against China's national conditions, laws and moral doctrines.

AIDS Girl-- A victim of dirty blood deals in Henan

Regarded as a terror, AIDS is still believed by most people as acquired only through improper behaviors. As a result AIDS patients are discriminated and their family shun out, and they have to go through both physical and mental sufferings. Then they become more unwilling to expose their disease and, given the people's lack of prevention knowledge, the number of infected people continues to increase.

The great changes in people's behavior and concept in present-day China have made AIDS a great potential danger. The case is just like a smoker, who looks healthy now but may get cancer or cardiovascular diseases ten years later. It seems that we do not need to have a strong sense of responsibility if we only place ourselves here and now, but what about the future, questioned an official with the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).

We can say that if we don't rouse the public attention of AIDS quickly, the epidemic will soon break out among people of ignorance, let alone to mention its prevention.

Look at the problem squarely and create a comfortable environment for AIDS patients

As the "century epidemic" is approaching we don't have any time to waste. The government, scholars, non-governmental organization and ordinary people should all face the problem squarely and make immediate efforts to set a curb on AIDS spreading.

Firstly we should face the disease bravely. As UN Secretary General Cofi Annan said in a speech in the Zhejiang University not long ago, we should spread the following messages: AIDS is a problem that can be solved. The first step of the anti-AIDS battle is to talk about it openly. Over this issue muffling is death. People must know that they could receive medical examinations publicly, instead of being laughed at; they could receive treatment if they get infected; and, even if they got infected, they could still lead a normal life without being discriminated.

We must give priority to education work by telling people sex leads to infection therefore protective measures must be adopted, such as using condoms, which can easily get or purchase at a low price.

Secondly, we must show true concern to AIDS patients, since our enemy is HIV/AIDS virus, but not the patients. Facing the AIDS terror, probably we can find the only answer in the diary entitled "The Last Challenge" by an AIDS patient, "What I challenge here? It's the disease, destiny and fear stemmed out of ignorance, for it is my right to seek life!"

(People's Daily October 30, 2002)

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