Shenzhen will open three methadone clinics early next year to offer a heroin substitute in a bid to reduce HIV infection among drug addicts, an official with the city's health bureau confirmed Wednesday.
Methadone, ingested rather than injected, can cut down HIV infections among drug users by reducing the use of shared syringes. This will be the first time that Shenzhen has opened such a clinic.
Yang Hao with the bureau's disease prevention department did not reveal the detailed addresses of the clinics, saying they will be in Longgang, Bao'an and Luohu districts and are yet to be approved by provincial authorities. He said the chosen venues are far from densely populated areas, government offices, schools and kindergartens.
Each clinic will have at least seven staff, including a senior doctor in charge, two nurses and doctors trained in AIDS prevention and mental health, a pharmacist and a security guard. Four should be working in the clinic during open hours.
Those aged over 20 who cannot abstain from drugs after repeated treatments at rehabilitation centers are eligible to use the service. They are also required to have lived in the city for at least six months and be mentally healthy. However, these restrictions do not apply to people with HIV.
Drug users need to present their ID cards and certificates from rehabilitation centers when applying for the service with district health authorities. They are required to sign an agreement promising to stop using other drugs during the methadone treatment and accept random urine tests.
As the cost of methadone is paid for by the state treasury, drug users only need to pay 10 yuan (US$1.27) for 10 ml of methadone to cover the clinics' running costs. Doctors will monitor the volume of the drug according to the condition of different drug users, who will not be allowed to take methadone away from the clinics to prevent its misuse.
More than half of the 573 HIV cases reported in Shenzhen this year, 55.9 percent of the total, were infected through sharing syringes, according to a report by the city's Center for Disease Control and Prevention last week.
Methadone is a synthetic anesthetic with fewer side effects than morphine. With doses lasting 24 hours, methadone has been widely used as a substitute to treat drug users and reduce their dependence on heroin.
China opened 206 methadone clinics over the past four months, Xinhua News Agency said in October. The new outlets bring the number of methadone clinics in the country to 307, Xinhua said. It didn't give locations but said they now covers two-thirds of China's 31 provinces and regions.
In Beijing, methadone clinics have been set up in all its six districts.
(Shenzhen Daily December 7, 2006)