China Must Demonstrate ‘Candor’ in Dealing With HIV/AIDS, New York Times Op-Ed Says
"Like many countries before it, China has been slow in facing up to AIDS. ... This reluctance to be open and realistic is dangerous, as the experience of other countries shows," Bates Gill and Sarah Palmer write in a New York Times op-ed. Gill, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, and Palmer, a virologist at the National Institutes of Health, cite India and South Africa as examples of countries that have had a difficult time overcoming the social stigmas and cultural taboos associated with sex and HIV/AIDS. The authors write that "it is possible to make headway against the disease," adding that China "should look to its neighbor Thailand" for a model of how to combat the virus. After "eventually overcom[ing]" its "initial denial" of its HIV/AIDS epidemic, Thailand waged "aggressive public health campaigns" to combat the disease, Gill and Palmer state. However, they add, China faces several obstacles in stemming its AIDS epidemic. Gill and Palmer write that China's "one-party politics" will hamper its efforts against HIV/AIDS because "[a]fter long labeling the disease as a Western problem, the government will not easily switch to an attitude of openness about this epidemic." In addition, shifts in the country's social and economic fabric have resulted in an increasing number of itinerant laborers and other mobile populations, making "more rapid spread of the disease possible," they note. Gill and Palmer write that providing medical treatment for Chinese people living with HIV/AIDS will also prove difficult because the country contains eight different subtypes of HIV-1, while the "most widely available drugs" on the market today are most effective against one HIV-1 subtype found "predominantly" in the United States and Western Europe. CDC officials will travel to China later this month to "help assess" the country's "HIV problem," and U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell also will bring up the issue of HIV/AIDS during his trip to Beijing later this month. These two actions are "positive signs that the two governments recognize the importance of drawing attention to the issue," Gill and Palmer state. They conclude, "[I]f China is to be saved from a grim future with many millions of [HIV] cases, Beijing must quickly develop effective prevention and education strategies. And before that can happen, it must accept the necessity of candor" (Gill/Palmer, New York Times, 7/16).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.