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China Moves Urgently to Curb AIDS Spread

The State Council, China's cabinet, published a circular on Sunday in which it admitted that the AIDS epidemic is still quickly spreading in the country and said that urgent measures must be implemented to change the situation.

Almost simultaneously, the full text was published of Vice Premier Wu Yi's speech on AIDS prevention a month ago. Wu emphasized that China's AIDS prevention and control work is at a crucial stage because the epidemic may spread outside high-risk groups.

China's first HIV case was identified in 1985. The most recent assessment report on AIDS prevention and control released by Ministry of Health indicates that HIV is an epidemic affecting all the mainland's 31 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities.

There are 840,000 HIV carriers, of whom 80,000 suffer full-blown AIDS, according to official figures. Some experts warn that over 10 million Chinese will be HIV-positive by 2010 unless effective measures are implemented.

Stressing the extreme importance of curbing the spread of the deadly disease, Wu said that if these measures are not taken, "the consequences will be very grievous."

"We should enhance management of blood banks, strictly crack down on illegal blood collection and eliminate in-hospital infection to curb virus spread through blood transfusions," Wu said.

Firm measures should be taken to cut down on prostitution as well as the use and sale of banned drugs, while the use of condoms and exchange of clean syringe needles should be encouraged.

The State Council's 12-page circular requires local governments at all levels and related organizations to pay close attention to combating AIDS. Government leaders in all areas will take responsibility.

"Those officials breaching duty or hiding epidemic reports will be severely punished," the circular says.

It also calls for the establishment of local AIDS prevention and treatment working committees in regions seriously affected by AIDS.

The State Council set up a national working committee early this year to coordinate the country's efforts to curb the spread of AIDS.

The circular calls for nationwide education, especially in rural areas, to increase awareness of AIDS, the harm it can do and methods of prevention. AIDS education will be added to the curricula in middle schools, vocational schools and colleges.

Entertainment venues should post printed materials in prominent areas to disseminate AIDS prevention information. Medical workers have the duty to provide information on AIDS prevention and condom use to their patients.

Health departments, together with Red Cross Societies, should encourage all healthy, young citizens to donate blood. Public security departments must intensify the fight against illegal blood collection.

Pregnant women will receive free AIDS prevention medical services to reduce the possibility of mother-to-baby HIV transmission.

Research and production of new AIDS treatments will accelerate and the government will increase spending in this area.

Financially strapped AIDS sufferers and their families will receive financial assistance from the government and more effort will be made to eliminate social discrimination against them.

International cooperation will be enhanced and international experience in AIDS prevention and treatment will be studied and introduced.

(Xinhua News Agency May 10, 2004)

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