China opened 206 methadone clinics between July and September this year bringing the total to 307 in a bid to curb the spread of HIV/AIDS through contaminated needles used by drug addicts, the Ministry of Health said in Hubei Province on Thursday.
Forty-four percent of an estimated 650,000 Chinese people living with HIV/AIDS are drug users, according to a report released by the ministry earlier this year.
Methadone is widely used as a substitute for heroin to help addicts kick their habit.
Wu Zunyou, an official at the Chinese Center for Diseases Control and Prevention, said China opened the 307 clinics three months ahead of the schedule.
He said that the swift establishment of the clinic could reduce the intake of heroin by over 1,000 kilograms.
The methadone treatment program, which was initiated in 2003, now covers about two thirds of all China's 31 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities. At the clinics, a cup of methadone drink usually costs 10 yuan (US$1.26).
Wu said China plans to set up methadone clinics in all its cities and counties which have over 500 registered drug users by the end of 2007.
Health experts said that the initiative can help to rein in drug use and stop HIV infections being transferred from high-risk drug users to the general population.
To curb the rising HIV infection rate nationwide, the Chinese central and local governments more than doubled funds for prevention and treatment to 1.08 billion yuan (US$136.5 million) in 2005 from 490 million yuan (US$61.9 million)in 2003.
According to the United Nations AIDS agency UNAIDS, around 65 million people worldwide have been infected with HIV and AIDS has killed more than 25 million since it was first recognized in 1981.
(Xinhua News Agency October 20, 2006)