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China Extends Greater Care for HIV-AIDS Carriers

Southwest China's Guizhou Province launched Sunday a training program which was designed to help local HIV/AIDS carriers make a better living with their own hands.

Several dozen volunteers from local government departments, hospitals and schools of higher learning, together with seven HIV/AIDS carriers attended Sunday's ceremony marking the launching of the "Help yourself through work relief" program in Guiyang, capital of Guizhou.

Under the training program, HIV/AIDS carriers were expected to learn the practical skills of knitting red ribbons, the sign of care for the HIV/AIDS carriers, and grass and bamboo artwork used for decoration, growing flowers, making potted plants and producing garbage bags, said Shi Zuohong, head of the Guiyang City Disease Prevention and Control Center, organizer of the program.

According to Shi, the training program, funded by local enterprises and donations, would be held for a long period of time.

Guiyang city now has 116 HIV carriers, most of whom used to be drug addicts and had suffered financial difficulties.

Some of them had attempted to work as taxi drivers or open dry cleaner's shops, but failed due to great pressure from society.

The training program has been welcomed by HIV carriers in the province, many of whom said the program improved their confidence in life.

Mr. Tao, a 41-year-old HIV carrier and a former taxi driver, isone of the HIV carrier supporters of the training program.

Tao is going to grow flowers with the help of the training programs and the first 300 pots of flowers grown by Tao are expected to sell next year.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's shaking hands and having face-to-face conversation with HIV/AIDS patients in Beijing on Dec. 1, 2003, World's Aids Day, has been hailed a milestone in China.

It was the first time that a Chinese premier had met with AIDS patients. It marked a milestone in China's HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment efforts and showed the government's strong commitment to the issue, said Ray Yip, director of China-US AIDS Prevention and Care Project.

Shaking hands and sitting with HIV/AIDS patients sent a significant signal to the society that HIV/AIDS victims need support and care. Wen told the whole nation with his behavior, "I am willing to help them", said Yip, also counselor of the UNICEF Office in China.

Many Chinese localities have moved to help HIV/AIDS carriers.

Central China's Hubei Province has announced it would offer free AIDS medication to all its 1,301 HIV-carriers this year, and would provide free anti-HIV treatment to poverty-stricken patients.

The provincial government will exempt rural HIV-carriers from agricultural taxes and promised to subsidize poverty stricken patients in urban areas, according to sources with the provincial government.

In addition, all HIV-infected children or those whose parents suffer AIDS will receive a totally free primary education and will be financed by the provincial government to finish their higher learning.

The government of central China's Henan province has pledged to improve the living conditions of its AIDS patients as soon as possible.

The provincial government sent a group of 76 officials from various departments last month for a one-year mission to help improve AIDS control and treatment work in the most seriously affected villages. They will team up with local officials to fan out into the 38 most affected villages in the province.

These officials are expected to supervise village authorities to offer free medical treatment to AIDS patients, free and anonymous HIV/AIDS tests, free education for orphans of AIDS patients and to take care of the elderly who have lost children to AIDS.

They would also help the villagers build basic infrastructure, including a paved road, a well, a school, a clinic and an orphanage and a home for the elderly in each village.

The provincial government has earmarked over 30 million yuan (3.6 million US dollars) to finance building of the facilities. So far, 4,352 AIDS patients in Henan have received free medical treatment.

Official statistics show 11,844 people have been confirmed HIV-positive in the province and 5,499 have contracted AIDS.

China reportedly has 840,000 HIV carriers including 80,000 AIDS patients.

China has made great progress in the past two years in HIV/AIDS prevention. Two years ago, the Red-Ribbon Movement to care for HIV/AIDS victims was launched across the country. A year ago, another program for HIV/AIDS carriers started in 100 counties nationwide.

China's first local law on the prevention of AIDS took effect in southwestern Yunnan Province on March 1.

According to the law, the province will provide disposable injection needles for drug users and condoms will be available either for free or at a lower price in all its hotels and entertainment venues, like night clubs, as part of its efforts to control the spread of AIDS.

In addition, AIDS prevention has been written into the duties of all levels of government in the province in the law, which also requires the government to set up a special organization on AIDS control, consisting of officials from the departments like public security, health, education and supervision.

(Xinhua News  Agency  March 15, 2004)

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