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Government Reveals Plan to Combat AIDS

AIDS and HIV are to be fought on three fronts-prevention, intervention and treatment, announced the central government yesterday.


The strategy is part of a five year plan to combat the deadly disease which affects nearly a million Chinese at least.


Wang Longde, vice-minister of the Ministry of Health and the director of the Office of the Working Committee for HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control under the State Council, said the government had devised a wide range of measures for its second five-year plan to bring infection under control.


Prevention First


"First and foremost will be the emphasis on raising public awareness of HIV/AIDS prevention, which is vital to prevent the disease from spreading wider," he told China Daily.


China's first five-year plan on HIV/AIDS prevention and control (2001-05) ends this year. The second-from next year to 2010-will be critical in combating the deadly disease, said Wang.


AIDS/HIV first surfaced in the country in 1985, and is now mainly spreading among high-risk groups including blood sellers, drug abusers, prostitutes and homosexuals.


The second part of the strategy "is to identify as many HIV carriers as soon as possible," said Wang.


According to a report jointly prepared by the United Nations and the Ministry of Health in 2003, China has an estimated 840,000 HIV/AIDS recorded cases.


But only 7.4 percent of those infected have been reported. The figure last year was 12.4 percent while the rate of reported cases around the world is 11 percent of estimated sufferers.


"Without knowing who the carriers are, how can governments provide the sufferers with a comprehensive care project?" asked Wang, who said the government wanted a holistic approach to combat the disease.


China made extensive efforts last year to identify victims, especially in high-risk groups, said Wang.


Thousands have been tested for HIV in Henan and other major provinces and regions where illegal and unsafe blood donations for cash and other forms of transmission were rampant in the 1990s, the minister said.


A survey in Henan last year showed that 25,000 of 280,000 blood donors in the last decade tested positive for HIV, according to provincial health authority of Henan. The nationwide figure will be released on December 1, World AIDS Day, Wang said.


Three high-risk groups which are targeted for prevention and intervention are prostitutes, homosexuals and prisoners, among whom the infection rate is believed to be worryingly high.


"The nation had 190 State-level surveillance and monitoring sites last year and 57 will be added this year," Wang said. At provincial level, there are about 400 testing centers.


Four Free Charges


The third part of the strategy is to strengthen the "four free charges and one care" project, said Wang.


The care scheme offers free medicine for HIV carriers, free and anonymous HIV tests, free education for orphans of HIV/AIDS victims and free prenatal treatment of infected pregnant women.


Elderly people who have lost children to AIDS receive free care.


The central and provincial governments will continue to increase spending on HIV/AIDS control and prevention. "We will not only treat the disease, but also help victims make a living," Wang said.

(China Daily June 2, 2005)

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