China is working hard to step up the treatment of AIDS patients as their number in the country will double from their current level to reach some 200,000 in five years time.
According to a ranking Chinese health official and medical experts, this situation would test the country's limited health care resources. They fear that over 80 percent of patients might miss out on receiving medical treatment and care since the average cost of the treatment was too high to afford and most of the basic medical institutions were poorly prepared.
"The numbers of AIDS patients and deaths from AIDS are now rising rapidly," said Qi Xiaoqiu, a Ministry of Health (MOH) official in charge of disease control. Experts with the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimated the number of AIDS patients, currently between 80,000 and 100,000, would possibly double in five years.
Approximately one million people across China were thought to be infected by HIV, the AIDS virus. Compared with the huge, growing demands for treatment, medical institutions which could provide this service remained scarce and highly concentrated in big cities such as Beijing.
Meanwhile more than 70 percent of patients live in rural areas. The Chinese government was exploring multiple channels to improve the treatment and care for patients, Qi noted, such as allocating special subsidies from the central budget, encouraging the local production of AIDS drugs, training medical staff and seeking international cooperation and support.
The State Council has approved a special fund of 22 million yuan (about US$2.7 million) per year in the 2002-2004 period for the treatment of AIDS patients in seriously affected areas. More AIDS patients might be able to foot their medical bills since the price of home-made drugs would be only one-tenth of that of imported ones. Those currently cost between 2,000-3,000 yuan (US$240-360) for one person per month in China, making the antiretroviral combination therapy almost out of reach for most patients.
Chinese pharmaceutical firms could produce four kinds of anti-HIV drugs to cater for 25,000-30,000 patients this year, Qi said. The MOH has begun to promote successful treatment and staff training across the country through establishing 100 county-level pilot areas for the comprehensive treatment and prevention of HIV/AIDS.
Meanwhile, China hoped to work with international partners in such fields as the research and application of anti-HIV drugs, and the treatment and care of AIDS patients, the MOH official said in Beijing Monday at a seminar on China-US cooperation on HIV/AIDS control and prevention strategy.
A US delegation composed of government officials, medical experts and foundation directors attending the seminar, were to discuss possibilities for conducting cooperation with their Chinese counterparts in these fields.
(Xinhua News Agency January 14, 2003)