China should be praised for its efforts to fight AIDS, and some
of its actions can set an example for other countries, an
international team of researchers said on Thursday.
They said China had learned from its mistakes with SARS and was
working to control the AIDS virus, which has infected an estimated
"China was somewhat slow to respond but once they responded they
did it in a big way," Roger Detels, an epidemiologist at the
University of California, Los Angeles, who led the team, said in a
"And I think it is appropriate to praise them for responding
Writing in the Lancet medical journal, Detels and colleagues
singled out the government of President Hu Jintao for unusual
praise. Hu, for example, publicly shook hands with AIDS patients,
helping to battle the stigma, they pointed out.
"I think that was enormously important," Detels said.
Countries that have succeeded in battling AIDS, such as Uganda
and Thailand, have all had major commitments from the top of the
government, he said.
"The challenge of managing the severe acute respiratory syndrome
(SARS) epidemic in 2003 is often credited with further motivating
the government to take aggressive policy action on HIV-related
issues," they wrote.
"SARS showed not only how infectious diseases could threaten
economic and social stability but also the effect of China's
policies on international health problems."
Detels and colleagues said China mistakenly tried to keep the
AIDS virus out in the 1980s.
"These early policies did little to stop transmission of HIV; in
fact, they probably promoted concealment of risk activities and
made identification of HIV reservoirs more difficult," they
The government now provides free AIDS drugs to rural residents
and city-dwellers without insurance. Other measures include:
-- Free voluntary counseling and testing
-- Free drugs to HIV-infected pregnant women to prevent
mother-to-child transmission, and HIV testing of newborn babies
-- Free schooling for AIDS orphans
-- Care and economic assistance to the households of people
living with HIV/AIDS.
"These bold programs have emerged from a process of gradual and
prolonged dialogue and collaboration between officials at every
level of government, researchers, service providers, policymakers
and politicians, and have led to decisive action," concluded the
researchers, who include Zunyou Wu of China's National Center for
AIDS/STD Control and Prevention and Sheena Sullivan of Edith Cowan
University, in Perth, Australia.
HIV infects 39 million people globally and experts fear the
incurable disease will spread even farther if countries do not act
to control it.
(China Daily February 23, 2007)