China has vowed to keep the annual growth rates of both HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted disease (STD) cases below 10 percent and lower the risk level of HIV infection through unclean blood transfusion to one in every 100,000 transfusions by 2005.
These are the major goals of the latest action plan of the Chinese government to curb the HIV/AIDS epidemic across the country, where more than 600,000 people are estimated to be infected by the deadly virus.
The annual growth rates of STD and HIV/AIDS cases, which might pose the world's largest health threat, have remained above 30 percent in recent years, said Chen Xianyi, an official with the Ministry of Health (MOH).
Although the reported number of HIV/AIDS cases was 23,905 at the end of March, medical experts fear that the actual figure could be 30 times larger because most cases remain undiscovered.
HIV transmissions through blood -- from intravenous drug use, and unsafe blood supply and transfusion -- make up 71.2 percent of HIV/AIDS cases in China. The government urgently needs to fight against drug use and illegal blood deals, said Chen, deputy director of the MOH's Department of Disease Control.
The MOH hopes the new action will press governments at all levels and the whole of society to promptly face the HIV/AIDS challenge, he said. China kicked off a long-term HIV/AIDS prevention and control plan in 1998, aiming to keep HIV infections below 1.5 million by the year 2010.
"However, the plan has not been effectively implemented in some places because local officials are still unaware of the seriousness of the epidemic, even though the actual situation is getting really dangerous," said Chen.
According to the new plan, blood for clinical use will have to undergo complete HIV testing. To ensure the safety of the blood, more than 85 percent of blood for clinical use will be provided by non-profit blood centers, and the rest can be supplied by authorized hospitals for their own use.
By the end of next year, 75 percent of medical institutions above county level should be able to provide HIV/AIDS patients with standard diagnosis, treatment, counseling, and health promotion services. And 85 percent of these institutions should be able to treat to STD patients.
More than half of the HIV/AIDS sufferers are expected to receive treatment and live in neighborhood communities or with their families, which is currently not the case due to rampant discrimination and fear.
In order to create a more friendly environment for HIV/AIDS patients, and for the purpose of better prevention, China plans to make relevant knowledge accessible to 75 percent of the urban population, 45 percent of rural residents, and 80 percent of high-risk people such as drug users. Mass media across the country have been encouraged to carry and broadcast reports and non-commercial advertisements on a weekly basis to promote the spread of correct information.
The central government has agreed to allocate 100 million yuan (US$12 million) each year as a special fund for HIV/ AIDS prevention and control, Chen said. The State Council, China's cabinet, has initiated a coordinating mechanism which brings the MOH and other departments together to supervise the implementation of the plan, he added.