A team of Chinese and American researchers has launched a clinical study of HIV/AIDS treatment in China's AIDS-stricken Yunnan Province with the objective of developing a strategy for nationwide treatment.
Through the pilot project, in which 300 patients are being treated with the triple combination antiretroviral therapy, more commonly known as "the cocktail therapy", the researchers hope that their findings will help them to develop treatment methods for the large number of HIV positive people in China.
The three-year study consists of a collaborative effort between researchers from the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences (CAMS), the New York-based Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center, and the Yunnan Provincial Center for Disease Prevention and Control.
China's Ministry of Health said last week that the number of HIV infected persons nationwide is approaching one million. Experts fear the number may hit ten million by the year 2010 if effective control measures are not taken now.
"What is most needed (by HIV positive individuals in China) is treatment," Prof. David Ho, director and CEO of the Aaron Diamond Center, said here Monday.
Unfortunately, the high price of imported AIDS drugs and limited access to proper medical care have made it impossible for the majority of HIV carriers in China to receive the cocktail therapy, which is currently the most effective way to control the illness and prolong the lives of the patients.
Prof. Ho, famous for having developed the cocktail therapy, said he expects the study will serve as a model for large-scale AIDS treatment in other Chinese provinces and also help raise public awareness with regard to the enormous need for AIDS treatment in China.
"This would be viewed as the first step," he said, describing the fight against HIV/AIDS in China as a long path ahead.
Prof. Cao Yunzen, from the CAMS, said that the team is interested in seeing the results of the therapy on Chinese patients, and noted that the drug, Trizivir, has been largely available around the world for some three years.
China has various sub-types of HIV, the AIDS virus, due to the complexity of the viral infection, she said.
Trizivir, launched by the pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline, is a fixed-dose antiretroviral combination tablet.
"We chose Trizivir because it's easy for patients," Prof. Ho said, adding that they have received strong support from China's health ministry and the local governments of Yunnan with regard to obtaining authorization to import the drugs, training local medical staff and improving lab facilities.
China has been adopting more practical and flexible policies to make medical services accessible to more HIV positive people, including negotiating with large pharmaceutical companies for reduced prices, providing tariff exemptions for imported drugs, and encouraging the production of generic AIDS drugs by domestic companies, which will substantially reduce the price.
(People's Daily October 22, 2002)