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Shaanxi Offers Free AIDS Treatment

Fifty HIV/AIDS sufferers will receive one-year's free traditional Chinese medicine treatment in Shaanxi Province.

"Paid for by the local government and costing 250,000 yuan (US$30,120), the free medical treatment will start late this month, aiming to treat early-stage HIV-positive people and extend the timeframe from infection to the development of full-blown AIDS," said Yuan Ruihua, deputy director of the Shaanxi Provincial Chinese Medicine Administration Bureau.

Yuan's bureau has mapped out a clear plan for the trial project, set down which patients will receive the treatment, and who wants to receive it.

"Within a year from July, we will treat 50 HIV/AIDS sufferers with herbal medicines free of charge, in order to lessen their pain and improve their health," Yuan said.

And when the scheme comes to an end next year, the bureau will examine the results and make plans to further treat the trial patients, the director said.

Jiang Xin, an HIV/AIDS sufferer looking to take part in the project, said he thought the scheme would improve the health of patients like him and relieve their financial burden, as they would no longer need to pay for expensive medication.

According to sources with the local health bureau, another 75 HIV/AIDS cases were diagnosed in Shaanxi in the first half of 2005, and the spread of infection is picking up pace.

"Among the newly diagnosed patients, 60 are men and 15 are women, of whom 43 were infected through injecting drugs and 12 through sex," said Zhang Yiwei, an official with the Shaanxi Provincial Health Bureau. "This shows more effective measures need to be taken to educate and protect the people who use drugs and engage in unsafe sex," he added.

Zhang said that compared with other provinces, Shaanxi had relatively few HIV/AIDS sufferers, but the rate of infection is on the rise: only 58 patients were diagnosed from 1992 to 2000, but 88 were found in 2004 alone.

"To date, Shaanxi has recorded a total of 357 HIV/AIDS cases, of which 57 have already died," Zhang said.

The Shaanxi Provincial Health Bureau yesterday released the January-June Report on the HIV/AIDS Situation in Shaanxi and warned local residents to pay attention to the issue.

Quan Xiaoli, a 22-year-old clerk from a private firm, said she knew a little about the killer virus but thought people like her would not become infected if they took care in their daily lives.

(China Daily July 15, 2005)

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