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Free Herbal Treatment Offered to HIV/AIDS Carriers

The central province of Hunan launched a program Friday to treat HIV/AIDS carriers with free traditional Chinese medicine, according to the provincial healthcare department.

About 450 AIDS patients and HIV/AIDS carriers, who volunteered to participate in the program, are expected to receive free treatment in five test clinic bases to be established soon in the province during the one-year program.

Compared with the Western-style drugs that have too many side-effects and are too expensive, the cost for traditional Chinese medicine in HIV/AIDS treatment is relatively low and results in less side-effects.

The program is part of China's ongoing campaign to help thousands of HIV/AIDS sufferers with the use of traditional Chinese medicine as a way to fight the fatal disease.

Since the national test program was launched in 2004, about 2,300 AIDS patients in the five provinces of Hebei, Anhui, Henan, Hubei and Guangdong, have got help.

The Ministry of Health will expand the free treatment program in 11 more provinces and municipalities including Hunan this year to prevent the spread of the disease and treat a total of 4,500 HIV/AIDS carriers.

The central government has earmarked 2.07 million yuan (US$255,000) for Hunan's program, 80 percent of which will be the cost for the drugs and the rest will be used in the training and management of the medical staff.

The local government and the hospitals will keep the privacy of the volunteer patients and doctors will adopt different therapy to patients in accordance with their specific conditions.

It is also possible to use the combination of western-style anti-retroviral drugs with traditional Chinese medicine, doctors said.

Hunan had registered 1,249 HIV/AIDS carriers by the end of last year, 99 of which have passed away.

China reportedly has 840,000 HIV/AIDS carriers, including 80,000 AIDS patients.

(Xinhua News Agency July 30, 2005)

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