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Joint effort to combat AIDS risks
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China's population authority has vowed to help reduce the risk of HIV among the country's mobile population by cooperating with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) on a three-year project along China's northern border.

"Migrant and mobile populations represent a serious challenge to the future success in combating the spread of HIV," Ru Xiaomei, deputy director general of the National Population and Family Planning Commission, told China Daily in a telephone interview yesterday.

She said four major border crossings and their surrounding communities were covered in the new program, including Heihe in Heilongjiang province, Yanji in Jilin province, Erenhot in the Inner Mongolia autonomous region and Huo'erguosi in the Xinjiang autonomous region.

"We hope to gain better ideas and measures through this project to ensure better public services," Ru said.

According to her, few dedicated 'migrant friendly' support services existed in these areas as cross-border migration and population mobility continued to accelerate as a result of increased economic cooperation in recent years.

Such groups of people are generally living off social safety nets, and have only limited access health and information services, she said.

This project is very timely in "the national context of providing services", managing and resolving issues relating to population, especially in the context of HIV and the floating population, she added.

The program is also a key component of the UN Joint Programme on HIV/AIDS (2007-10) in China's efforts to strengthen the local government and community's capacity to respond to the epidemic.

"Mobility and HIV are closely inter-related and this relationship has a negative impact on human development," Renaud Meyer, UNDP Deputy Country Director, said on the project launching ceremony last Wednesday.

Noting that HIV prevalence along China's northern border areas was 'low', Meyer warned that an explosion in cross-border trade, tourism and work opportunities is presenting an ever-increasing risk to future HIV rates.

(China Daily March 11, 2008)

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