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AIDS Control Poses Major Challenge

Prevention and control of HIV and AIDS in China need to focus on educating the general public, identifying more patients, and promoting knowledge on HIV/AIDS prevention among high-risk groups, Chinese health officials said on Friday.

Shen Jie, director of the National Center for AIDS/STD Control and Prevention, said the fight against HIV/AIDS needs participation from the media.

A United Nations assessment report on China's progress toward reaching its Millennium Development Goals released on Thursday in Beijing listed HIV/AIDS as one of the issues that need more attention in China.

Other issues include alarming gender issues and environmental problems.

The report categorizes the state of China's targets for halting and reversing the spread of HIV/AIDS by 2015 as possibly not being "on track.''

The three-day conference opened on Thursday and is being held by the Chinese Foreign Ministry and offices of UN organizations in China.

Through the media, knowledge about HIV/AIDS can be spread among the general public and thus people in all walks of life can get mobilized on the matter, Shen said.

The importance of education for the general public is a key concern for Nafis Sadik, special envoy of the UN Secretary-General for HIV/AIDS in Asia and the Pacific Region, who gave a keynote speech at the conference on Friday.

In the speech, she said people must be made aware that HIV/AIDS can happen to anyone, and everyone must understand the importance of responsibility for protecting themselves and their loved ones.

Some public figures in China have already started to help. Actress Jiang Wenli, who was also attending the conference on Friday, said as a public figure, she is willing to take part in the HIV/AIDS prevention and control and do what she can.

As government lobbying sometimes does not work well among the general public, the activities of public figures could achieve positive results easier, Jiang said.

Together with other famous figures like actor Pu Cunxin, Jiang is now an AIDS prevention spokesperson appointed by the Ministry of Health.

Shen said efforts also need to be made to discover more HIV carriers and AIDS patients so that they can receive treatment and get help.

Currently the country's estimated number of people infected with HIV is around 840,000, but only a tiny number of carriers or patients know they are infected, she said. She added that identifying them can help not only themselves but also others close to them.

Another focus in the fight against HIV/AIDS should be making high-risk groups informed with relevant knowledge about the afflictions, Shen said.

For example, things can improve if less than 20 per cent of intravenous drug addicts who share with others. But now, as Shen said, about 50 per cent of the drug users share needles with others.

Sadik said that policy-makers must devise ways of providing people at risk with information and services, including condoms, and voluntary counseling and testing for HIV/AIDS.

China also need to strengthen capacity-building, Shen said, adding that more medical workers should be trained.

(China Daily March 27, 2004)


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