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Official: AIDS Toll in Jilin Exaggerated

There is no large-scale AIDS outbreak in Northeast China's Jilin Province and the general situation is under control, say senior health officials from Jilin.


"There are some farmers infected with AIDS in Soudengzhan Village of Jilin City. But it is not AFP's 300,'' said Zhao Bo, an assistant researcher with the disease control and treatment bureau at the Jilin provincial health department.


According to an AFP news agency report on November 30, there are up to 300 villagers in Soudeng Township possibly infected with AIDS after they donated blood at government blood stations. The report also says that 62 people have died so far from the disease.


"It is absolute nonsense,'' said Liu Baogui, director of the AIDS prevention and treatment center from the disease control bureau in Jilin City.


"First, it is Soudengzhan Village, not Souden village. I just wonder where they get the news from," said Liu.


The local health department has undertaken five large medical examination campaigns in Soudengzhan and nearby villages since 2000 that involved 10,000 habitants. Confirmed cases of HIV infections amount to 64 and all of them are under monitoring and supervision, according to Liu. He added that how they became infected varies but gave no details.


"There are some AIDS patients in our village but not as many as what they (AFP) said,'' said Wu Chunhuan, a farmer from Soudengzhan Village.


Xia Shuqing, another farmer from Soudengzhan, got infected with HIV last year. Instead of feeling sorry for herself she established the Strong and Healthy Club to help local AIDS patients regain confidence in life, a project backed by the local health department.


"There are not so many patients here. As the head of the club, I know every patient in our village as we arrange activities frequently for the patients,'' said Xia.


The local government has made efforts to provide infected farmers with preferential policies in terms of life and medical care, said Cao Jie, an official from Jilin City's health bureau.


The Jilin municipal government has promised free treatment to AIDS patients and, at this point, 32 patients who cannot afford medical services are taking advantage of the policy. The cost for this amounts to almost 100,000 yuan (US$ 12,000).


Low-income patients also benefit from preferential polices on agricultural tax exemptions and their children's education, and receive 560 yuan (US$67) in annual subsidies from the local government.


"This may be very little money for others, but it does ensure our daily living,'' said Xia.


There was a total of 194 HIV cases reported by the end of October with 43 deaths in Jilin Province. Young and middle-aged farmers account for 75 per cent of them, said Zhao Bo.


Illegal blood-collection centers have been shut down to prevent further infection, added Zhao.


Jilin has worked to raise awareness about the prevention, control and treatment of AIDS, which is the main bottleneck for the control of AIDS in China. The lack of knowledge about HIV makes people, especially farmers, vulnerable to the virus.


(China Daily December 26, 2003)

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