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Fight Against AIDS Escalates

Providing "comprehensive care" to thousands of HIV/AIDS victims and curtailing the spread of the virus are becoming urgent priorities in China because the country is experiencing an annual rate of increase of more than 50 percent.

The efforts made by China, a developing country, to treat HIV carriers and AIDS patients are not up to par with countries such as the United States, said Zhang Fujie, director of the Treatment and Care Department of the National Centre for AIDS/STD Prevention and Control under the Chinese Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

Experts said the number of HIV cases in China has reached 850,000 while the number of AIDS patients has reached 200,000.

The central government's goal is to contain HIV infections to 1.5 million people by 2010. But experts warn that if the number of cases increases at the current rate, it will reach 10 million by 2010.

Zhang's centre, following the guide of the central government, is preparing a national comprehensive care strategy to create a better living environment for HIV/AIDS patients.

Public awareness about respecting and understanding HIV/AIDS patients will be stressed.

And the rights of HIV/AIDS patients and their widows and children will be better protected, said Xu Lianzhi, a professor specializing in HIV/AIDS treatment from Beijing You'an Hospital, where dozens of HIV/AIDS patients are receiving medical and psychological treatment in a special department.

"Comprehensive care," a phrase coined by World Health Organization (WHO) in the early 1990s, means providing HIV/AIDS patients with medical treatment and economic support in a humane way.

When formulating such a strategy, China must stress the importance of educating the public about showing compassion for HIV/AIDS patients and their families, said Joel Gallant, associate professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University, who attended a symposium last weekend in Southwest China's Yunnan Province on AIDS treatment.

Comprehensive care centres will soon be established in some provinces with comparatively more HIV/AIDS cases, such as Yunnan Province.

If the centre thrives, a national network of such sites will be established in the future, Zhang said.

Medical treatment is a vital part of such care, Zhang said, since most HIV/AIDS patients cannot afford the cost of drugs. They range from 2,000 yuan (US$240) to 3,000 (US$360) yuan a month.

Insurance companies in China refuse to cover HIV/AIDS.

So some departments under the State Council, such as the State Development Planning Commission, are negotiating with foreign drug companies, such as Germany's Boehringer Ingelheim, to reduce the cost of AIDS drugs.

And HIV/AIDS patients in some rural areas have been exempt from the agriculture tax.

(China Daily May 27, 2002)

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