A hundred thousand pamphlets on HIV/AIDS prevention and control were recently distributed to local officials throughout China, the first time the country has extensively spread HIV/AIDS knowledge to local leaders.
"In the eyes of medical workers, officials, like the general public, may have limited knowledge of disease and feel scared," said Hou Peisen, director of National Health Education Institute (NHEI). "It is hoped that by educating them on related policies and dispelling their concerns the state policies can be followed and implemented locally."
China has undoubtedly made remarkable progress in HIV/AIDS prevention and control, yet it remains a challenge to make senior leaders' resolution known to the grass roots, said Khalid Malik, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) resident representative in China.
Having frequent contact with local officials, Wu Zunyou, director of Division of Health Education and Behavioral Intervention of China's Center for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC), said that China's HIV/AIDS prevention and control still faces many problems which have origins in local areas, not the central government.
According to Wu, quite a few local leaders are completely unaware of the state's medium- and long-term plans on HIV/AIDS prevention and control, Premier Wen Jiabao's bylined article on HIV/AIDS prevention and control that had been published in newspapers and the state policies about promoting use of condom and methadone maintenance therapy.
"How can they implement policies if they don't know them at all?" Wu said.
Currently, China has about 840,000 HIV carriers, ranking second in Asia and 14th in the world, which drew great attention of senior Chinese leaders.
Chinese President Hu Jintao referred to HIV/AIDS prevention and control initiative as "a major issue that has a bearing on the nation's quality and destiny", calling on the leaders of various levels to enhance their HIV/AIDS knowledge.
Premier Wen Jiabao and Vice Premier Wu Yi met with AIDS patients, showing their resolution on HIV/AIDS prevention and control.
The Chinese government also pledged to offer free anti-retroviral therapy to AIDS patients with financial difficulties.
Yet the implementation of policies relies heavily on local officials' understanding of policies.
Efforts specifically for spreading HIV/AIDS knowledge among officials are crucial, though the general HIV/AIDS knowledge publicity campaign reaches officials as well, Hou said.
"Combining basic knowledge and related policies, the pamphlet is very readable," Hou said.
Revised more than ten times, the pamphlet took NHEI staff half a year to compile before it made its appearance right before the World AIDS Day on December 1.
This was not China's first attempt to popularize the health knowledge and policies among decision makers at local levels.
During the annual sessions of the National People's Congress (NPC) and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), booklets on disease control and related policies were also distributed to NPC deputies and CPPCC delegates.
This pamphlet on HIV/AIDS knowledge was said to have been distributed to various organs at the central and local levels, with a focus on 127 pilot areas of HIV/AIDS comprehensive prevention and control.
As to how effective this pamphlet will be, Hou answered, "We have to wait and see."
"We will surely improve the pamphlet based on research and evaluation," Hou said, adding that popularizing HIV/AIDS knowledge among officials is among the keys of their future health education efforts.
(Xinhua News Agency December 1, 2004)