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Chinese AIDS Patients Longing for Better Anti-viral Drugs

Chinese HIV-infected are longing for new and better anti-AIDS medicines so as to restore their life to normal and improve their life quality as the 18th World AIDS Day falls on Thursday.

Meng Lin, who was found HIV-positive in Beijing in 1995, said many Chinese AIDS patients rely on anti-viral drugs to sustain and prolong their life, but an increasing number of them have developed drug-resistant symptoms.

"A lot of HIV-infected people have take months and some even over three years of first-line medicines. It seems to be a distant dream for them to have more newly developed medicines."

According to latest figures from the Ministry of Health, Chinese mainland had reported 31,143 HIV-AIDS patients by Sept. this year, and 20,453 of them have received free government medicines, most of them living in poverty.

The fourth-line anti-AIDS medicines have been developed by foreign companies. But constrained by intellectual property rights regulations, Chinese pharmaceutical manufacturers are prohibited from making copies of foreign second-line or more advanced drugs.

Expensive imported medicines have driven China's anti-AIDS campaign into a dilemma. It is hard for China to offer cheaper and better drugs to AIDS patients, who in turn, if haven't received free government drugs, cannot afford to buy.

Zhao Aiping, 36, is a farmer infected with HIV for blood selling in mid-1990s in central Henan Province. She developed AIDS symptoms in 2002. Her husband is also living with the virus.

The couple used to earn over 10,000 yuan (1,250 dollars) a year, quite wealthy by local standard. But since Zhao was overwhelmed by the disease in 2002, they have gradually drained savings and have to rely on government subsidies.

Worse still, Zhao was told by doctors that she would become drug-resistant till next year and have to turn to better anti-viral medicines.

"It costs about 10,000 yuan a month to buy imported second-line medicines. We don't have the money," she said.

As transnational own the copyright of over 20 kinds of anti-viral medicines, Chinese manufacturers can not make copies of them.

In July and September, a number of HIV-infected gathered in Beijing and southwestern Kunming city, calling on transnational to cut prices of anti-AIDS medicines.

India, Thailand, Brail and some other developing countries have given "mandatory permit" to domestic companies for producing copies of advanced foreign anti-AIDS medicines so as to reduce the prices.

"If international makers refuse to lower the prices, we hope the government will issue "mandatory permit" to domestic companies so as to help more HIV-infected get more effective treatment and sustain their hope for life.”

(Xinhua News Agency December 2, 2005)

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