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Vital International Support

China is not alone in its fight against HIV/AIDS.

"Since December last year, we have had a lot of conversations with the Chinese Government and we have worked closely together," said Khalid Malik, UN resident coordinator in China.

The UN and the Ministry of Health made a Joint Assessment of China's HIV/AIDS Prevention and Treatment in December last year and this year's report was released on Tuesday.

Malik believes that China is now at a critical point in the battle against HIV/AIDS.

"We are at the beginning. If you don't take the right measures, it will become a big problem. HIV/AIDS is just beginning to enter China's mainstream population. We still have an opportunity if we do it in a timely way," Malik said.

He said that it is very important to invest continuously in the prevention and treatment of the disease. "We have to find ways of educating people and getting them to change their behavior. We should be more open in some ways about how we discuss sex," he said.

Malik cited Thailand as a good example. "They did a great job to raise people's awareness of anti-HIV/AIDS. When you do these things, people respond to it."

Apart from programs for those who already have HIV/AIDS, Malik suggested that new programs focusing on prevention should be initiated.

"HIV is a social problem, not just a medical issue, so we have to deal with it in a comprehensive way. You have to have a strong political commitment and a lot of active programs," Malik said.

(China Daily December 1, 2004)

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