China Launches Program to Reduce New HIV Infections, Make Blood Supply Safe
China has launched a program designed to reduce the nation's annual HIV infection rate from more than 30% to under 10% by 2005, Reuters reports (Page, Reuters, 8/3). The program will spend 1.95 billion yuan ($235 million) to "clean up" the country's blood supply and care for HIV/AIDS patients, with the majority of funding going toward an "HIV/AIDS prevention and control fund," which will allow half of all AIDS patients in the country to receive treatment from family or community groups by 2003 (Agence France-Presse, 8/3). The remaining $114 million will be allocated to improve 250 blood donation and supply stations (Zhang, China Daily, 8/3). Agence France-Presse reports that the plan was developed after government figures indicated that the number of HIV/AIDS cases in China increased 30% last year from 1999, "one of the fastest growth rates in the world."
Reducing Tranfusion Transmission
The program announcement also follows reports of a "potentially explosive situation," where "thousands of villagers" who sold their blood are now dying of AIDS-related illnesses (Agence France-Presse, 8/3). In some rural communities, where peasants "regularly" sell their blood, the disease has spread to more than half of the adult population. Therefore, the new plan will require that all blood intended for clinical use must "undergo complete HIV testing." In addition, the government will advocate the use of blood obtained only from not-for-profit clinics to "reduce the reliance" on blood sellers. The program will also focus on curbing intravenous drug use, which, along with tainted blood transfusions, accounts for 71.2% of the HIV/AIDS cases in the country. According to official figures, only 7% of cases are spread sexually, but 21% of cases are transmitted by "unknown sources" (Kyodo News, 8/3). Experts say that the program will "clean up" China's blood supply. "It's the first time the government has allocated that much money for AIDS prevention. They realize the AIDS epidemic is getting more serious. Some places don't examine blood before they give it to the patients, putting patients at risk," the head of a "major" Chinese NGO said (Agence-France Presse, 8/3). AIDS is not currently "widespread" in China, as "liberal" estimates put the infection rate at less than 0.1%. But epidemiologists say that "ignorance is leaving the county vulnerable as its society opens up" (Kyodo News, 8/3).