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HIV Children to Receive Free Anti-retroviral Therapy
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HIV positive Chinese children are to receive free anti- retroviral treatment, health anchorites announced Wednesday.

"Health departments at all levels must ensure that anti-retroviral therapy to children is included in the free anti-retroviral treatment to AIDS patients," the Health Ministry said in a regulation.

The ministry has been providing free anti-retroviral drugs to AIDS patients with financial difficulties since 2003. So far, more than 20,000 AIDS patients have received free drugs, but treatment for children has remained a problem.

Health experts pointed that many infected children resort to adult dosages due to the scarcity of drugs for children, which are usually highly expensive.

In June last year, the ministry launched pilot projects in six provinces and autonomous regions, providing children's dosage drugs. About 200 children received the drugs, mostly donated by the Clinton Foundation.

Early reports said China has recorded about 800 HIV infected children, most of whom were infected through mother-to-baby transmission. Experts believe that more child carriers remain undiscovered.

The Health Ministry said provincial health authorities must ensure that enough money will be allocated for anti-retroviral treatment to children.

It also required health departments at all levels improve training of doctors specializing on treatment for children and enhance health monitoring of children.

Health departments were required to "mobilize all resources" to provide psychological counseling and assistance to children and their families.

According to estimates by the ministry, the World Health Organization and UNAIDS, China has about 650,000 people living with HIV/AIDS, including 75,000 who have developed AIDS.

(Xinhua News Agency November 30, 2006)

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