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Greater Efforts Needed in AIDS Control

Despite lower estimated figures and stronger political commitment, China still faces challenges in HIV/AIDS control, said an expert from the World Health Organization (WHO) Monday.

The government had made some achievements in fighting HIV/AIDS in terms of high-level political commitment and the initiation of effective prevention, treatment, care and support programs, said Dr Wiwat Rojanapithayakorn, HIV/AIDS team leader in the WHO's Beijing office.

"The country has got one agreed HIV/AIDS action framework that drives alignment of all partners, one national AIDS authority with a broad-based multi-sector mandate and one agreed country-level monitoring and evaluation system," Wiwat said in a presentation at a regional conference.

However, China still needed to scale up effective interventions and eliminate the widespread stigma of sufferers. It should also mount an effective AIDS response in the context of a weak healthcare system, the expert told the Beijing Conference on East Asian Regional Cooperation in the Fight Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

China has 650,000 people living with HIV/AIDS, including 75,000 with clinical, or fully developed, AIDS, Wiwat cited the 2005 Update on the HIV/AIDS Epidemic and Response in China as saying.

The former version of the report released in 2003 estimated China had 840,000 HIV infections including 80,000 AIDS patients.

Last year, there were 25,000 AIDS deaths and 70,000 new HIV infections recorded by the Ministry of Health.

Moreover, China had a large population at risk of HIV, he warned.

Between 30 million and 50 million people were at risk of HIV, and the sex industry and sexual activity were increasing while levels of condom use remained low, he said, adding that the country also had a large migrant population of up to 120 million people.

China had been taking action in fighting HIV/AIDS, said Wu Zunyou, director of the national center for AIDS/STD (sexually transmitted diseases) control and prevention under the national Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

It has strengthened surveillance and testing by setting up 329 national surveillance sites, 2,850 free testing clinics and 3,756 screening labs.

In 2004 and 2005, China carried out an HIV testing campaign among high risk groups. "About eight percent of infections were identified before the campaign and 22 percent after it," Wu told the conference.

Moreover, the central government had established an AIDS working committee in all provinces, and promulgated a national regulation on AIDS prevention and control, said Wu.

However, experts said the control of HIV/AIDS needed more financial support and public awareness, and more care for AIDS-afflicted families.

"By 2010, China will have limited people living with HIV/AIDS to no more than 1.5 million," Wu said, citing the 11th Five-Year Plan (2006-2010).

Participants from East Asian countries are gathering in Beijing to discuss cooperation in the control of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. Six million people die of the diseases around the globe each year.

(Xinhua News Agency July 11, 2006)

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