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71% of Chinese AIDS Patients on Anti-viral Treatment
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A total of 28,757 people have received  AIDS treatment the Chinese Ministry of Health announced on Thursday. This accounts for 71 percent of total reported cases.

The anti-viral medication for HIV/AIDS had been supplied to 31 provinces and the number of recipients was expected to reach 30,000 by the end of the year, said a ministry statement. The number of patients treated with traditional Chinese medicine has exceeded 6,000.

By September last year 20,453 AIDS sufferers received free drugs. This was 65.7 percent of the reported cases. .

Joanna Brent, spokeswoman of the World Health Organization (WHO) in China, said that HIV voluntary counseling and testing services needed to be available to Chinese people.

The ministry has been publicizing voluntary counseling and testing and encouraging people at risk of HIV infection to get the services. By the end of June health authorities had tested 871,089 people and found 9,567 to be HIV positive, according to figures from the ministry.

And a pilot scheme to prevent mother-to-baby transmission has been carried out in 271 counties of 28 provinces and by June 1.02 million pregnant women had received testing. Of them 1,121 were found to be HIV positive.

About 70 percent of HIV-infected pregnant women accepted anti-viral medication and 80 percent of the babies born to infected mothers received treatment. The ministry also revealed that 273 children infected with HIV received medication under a pilot project covering 14 provinces.

Brent warned that counseling and testing of women and children was not enough. "There is still an urgent need to get HIV prevention messages and services out to groups at highest risk in order to help stem the further spread of HIV."

Surveys show only 38.7 percent of Chinese sex workers use condoms and 50.8 percent of drug addicts continue to share needles.

Official figures released on Wednesday showed the number of people officially reported as HIV positive on the Chinese mainland has risen 27.5 percent since the beginning of the year to 183,733 by the end of October.

Among the reported cases 37 percent of infections were caused by illegal drug users sharing contaminated needles and 28 percent caused by unprotected sex.

The figures also showed that transmission through unprotected sex was increasing with the infection rate of sex workers rising from 0.02 percent in 1996 to one percent in 2005.

Commercial sex greatly contributed to the rapid spread of HIV from high-risk groups to the general public, noted Dr. Wiwat Rojanapithayakorn, HIV/AIDS team leader at the WHO Beijing office.

Speaking in Lanzhou,  Gansu Province, on Tuesday, Wiwat promoted the practice of providing condoms in entertainment places to effectively prevent the spread of HIV.

(Xinhua News Agency November 24, 2006)

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