China Needs to Focus on Prevention, Not Treatment, Editorial Says
Chinese officials' recent approval of a generic version of the antiretroviral drug AZT for domestic use is a "sign that the regime is waking up to the extent of the epidemic within its own borders," an Asian Wall Street Journal editorial states. However, it is "unfortunate that a developing country is concentrating mainly on treatment of the already infected" and not on prevention, the "most effective weapon in the anti-AIDS fight," the editorial continues. The editorial notes that an estimated 850,000 Chinese people were HIV-positive by the end of 2001, according to the World Health Organization, and UNAIDS predicts that as many as 10 million people could be infected by 2010. It is "painfully clear that China has lost the chance to nip the spread of the disease in the bud," but "even at this late stage ... a relatively low-cost public health program, if begun quickly, could save millions of lives," the Journal states.
Acknowledge Past Mistakes
But the Chinese government has been "reluctant" to take action for "largely political" reasons, the Journal says, noting that the government does not want to call attention to its past mistakes. HIV was spread through the countryside largely through an unsanitary blood trade, which was often affiliated with and endorsed by local governments, the Journal states. Since the unsafe blood collection practices were exposed in the Western media, the government has ruled them illegal, and "[o]ne can only hope that government collaboration with the agencies has since ceased," the editorial says. Instead of cracking down on local officials who endorsed the operations, the government is promoting many of them to high-ranking positions within the Communist party, the editorial states. Unless the central government makes local officials accountable, the country will "go on paying a steep price for decades to come," the Journal says, concluding, "The true scandal here is that because China's leaders are afraid of hurting their own image by acknowledging past mistakes, they are continuing to allow millions of their poorer countrymen to go on unwittingly infecting themselves with a deadly disease" (Asian Wall Street Journal, 8/15).