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Yunnan to Open 22 New Methadone Clinics
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Twenty-two methadone clinics are set to open in southwest China's Yunnan Province in response to rising drug addiction and the spread of HIV/AIDS in the region.

The new clinics, comprising 15 fixed clinics and seven mobile stations, brings the total number to 75 in the province.

Bordering the Golden Triangle drug-producing area which includes parts of Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam, Yunnan has suffered from crippling heroin addiction in recent years.

"Yunnan had registered more than 50,000 heroin addicts by the end of last year, of whom only 2,600 took the methadone treatment program, far below the target of 30 percent," Zhang Ruimin, deputy director of the Yunnan Provincial Institute for Drug Abuse.

The methadone treatment program, which was initiated in 2003 in China, now covers about two thirds of all the 31 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities on the Chinese mainland. Yunnan opened its first methadone treatment clinic in Gejiu City in mid April of 2004. At the clinics, a dose of methadone drink usually costs 10 yuan (US$1.26).

The high rate of drug addiction has also resulted in a marked increase in the number of officially reported HIV/AIDS cases due to the sharing of contaminated needles. In December, the local Yunnan government announced plans to bring in free compulsory HIV tests for pre-marital couples and described the current AIDS situation in the province as "grave".

By the end of September last year, Yunnan had recorded 47,314 people living with HIV/AIDS, accounting for about a quarter of the national total.

China intends to add 195 methadone clinics to the current number of 307 and set up clinics in all its cities and counties which have over 500 registered drug users by the end of 2007.

Currently, China has about 1 million registered drug users.

(Xinhua News Agency January 11, 2007)

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