Beijing will start offering free tuberculosis (TB) treatment from the end of March, and the city government has allocated three million yuan (US$361,000)for the program.
Patients can consult doctors in 20 tuberculosis hospitals and get medication free of charge under the program, said Tu Dehua, head of the city's TB control and research institute, quoted by Thursday's Beijing Morning Post.
But the free treatment is currently reserved for people who are registered permanent residents of Beijing.
A course of treatment takes six to 12 months and each patient's medication costs an average 1,000 yuan (US120).
Those who are suspected of having TB can have the medical examination fee reduced or waived if they have economic difficulties.
TB, AIDs, and malaria have been listed as the world's three major infectious diseases. China has the second largest number of TB sufferers in the world, with 130,000 of deaths as a result of the disease each year.
Beijing has the lowest TB death rate in China.
Tu said most adults in Beijing have been infected by TB which can lie dormant. The Chinese capital will probably see more elderly TB patients as people become more frail with age.
(Xinhua News Agency March 28, 2002)