China's AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) prevention and control work is at a crucial stage because the epidemic may spread from high-risk groups to normal people, said Vice-Premier Wu Yi at a national work conference on AIDS prevention held here on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Stressing the extreme importance and emergency of curbing the quick spread of the deadly disease in China, Wu said if no effective prevention and control measures are taken, "the consequences will be very grievous."
China's fight against AIDS/HIV has lasted 19 years, since the first HIV infectious case in 1985. The assessment report on China's AIDS prevention and control, released by Ministry of Health, shows HIV is an epidemic covering all the mainland's 31 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities. There are 840,000 HIV-carriers, of whom 80,000 suffer AIDS.
"The number of HIV carriers has rapidly increased, and the virus has been epidemic not only among high-risk groups, but also among normal people," said Dai Zhicheng, vice-chairman of the China Sexually Transmitted Diseases and AIDS Prevention and Control Association.
Experts warn that over 10 million Chinese will be HIV-positive in 2010, unless effective counter-measures are taken.
Wu Yi, also head of a high-level committee for national AIDS prevention and widely praised for her tough stance in last year's anti-SARS fight, vowed at the meeting to push forward the publicity campaign to increase the awareness of AIDS prevention and control among the general public as well as high-risk groups, improve their understanding of the disease, and fighting prejudice against AIDS patients and HIV carriers.
"The AIDS epidemic severely affects people's health and life as well as economic and social development," she said, noting the Communist Party of China and the State Council have attached great importance to the issue.
The Chinese government has taken a number of measures in this regard, including free treatment for the poor, the establishment of AIDS control centers, the legislation of AIDS-related laws and international cooperation.
"We should enhance management over blood banks, strictly crack down upon illegal blood collection and ban in-hospital infection to curb virus spread through blood transfusions," she said.
Firm measures should be taken to cut down on prostitution as well as the use and sale of banned drugs, and use of condoms and exchange of clean syringe needles.
All departments should make timely and authentic reports on the epidemic situation, and any activity of hiding and delaying epidemic reports will be punished, she said.
The government, sticking to AIDS prevention and control by law and through scientific means, should motivate social forces to establish new mechanisms for AIDS prevention, she said.
(Xinhua News Agency April 8, 2004)