From denying AIDS as an issue to putting it top of the government work agenda, Chinese government has fortified its resolve against AIDS.
On the eve of the 17th World AIDS Day, Chinese president Hu Jintao visited You'an Hospital in Beijing, shook hands with AIDS patients, encouraged them to increase their confidence in fighting against AIDS and urged the whole country to end discrimination against and alienation of those suffer with AIDS.
This is the second time the Chinese senior leaders have come to visit the AIDS patients within the year. On December 1, last year, Premier Wen Jiabao first visited the ward, grabbing the media's attention and signaling that Chinese government has begun to confront the AIDS issue.
Overseas media commented on Hu's handshake with AIDS patients as "bringing the problem into the open," and "a new drive to confront an epidemic which experts warn needs urgent attention."
"Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao have set up an example for the officials at all levels, and their personal visits to AIDS patients far more influential than issuing a host of paper instructions," noted Jin Jun, director of AIDS/HIV policy research center in China's prestigious Tsinghua University.
China now has approximately 840,000 AIDS/HIV carriers. Since the first AIDS patient was found in 1985, AIDS has been a very sensitive topic in China because of the ways the disease is spread: sexual intercourse and injected drugs.
Addressing the HIV/AIDS High-level Meeting of the United Nations General Assembly last September, Chinese vice minister of health Gao Qiang pledged that the Chinese government has given top priority to AIDS prevention and treatment.
In February, Wu Yi, Chinese vice premier and minister of health met and interviewed Gao Yaojie, a woman doctor from central China's Henan province who had dedicated herself to AIDS prevention and treatment. Wu asked for her suggestions on aiding rural AIDS patients.
The State Council, or the central Chinese government, founded its AIDS prevention work committee at the beginning of this year, to provide treatment and free check-ups to AIDS carriers in rural areas and urban AIDS carriers in need.
Currently, condoms are provided for free at recreational centers in Beijing and southwest China's Sichuan and Yunnan as part of the national efforts to curb the spread of AIDS virus.
The Ministry of Health issued a report on AIDS prevention and treatment evaluation work for 2004, Tuesday, stating that China has been making substantial progress with concrete actions such as promoting the use of condoms, providing some free anti-retroviral therapies and nearly doubling it budget for AIDS to 810 million yuan (US$98 million) for 2004.
But despite the strides made, a recent survey shows that some Chinese citizens still lack basic knowledge about AIDS and more efforts still need to care about AIDS carriers.
(Xinhua News Agency December 2, 2004)