Advocates Lobby Chinese Parliament for Programs To Help AIDS Orphans
Hu Jia, director of the Aizhixing Institute of Health Education, a nongovernmental organization, has proposed a 10-point HIV/AIDS action plan to members of the Chinese parliament, the South China Morning Post reports. The plan urges the government to increase funding for the education and care of AIDS orphans and to address stigma associated with the disease. According to the Chinese government, one million people in the country are HIV-positive; however, the United Nations estimates that there are approximately six million HIV-positive individuals in China and warns that 10 million Chinese could be HIV-positive by 2010. (Chan, South China Morning Post, 3/10). While the Chinese government cites injection drug use as the leading cause of HIV transmission, "thousands" of Chinese people have been infected with HIV through unsanitary blood trade practices. The government has taken several steps to combat the disease, including the mass production of low-cost antiretroviral drugs, a ban on the blood trade and earmarking $2.7 million per year in 2002-2004 in subsidies for treatment for people in the worst-hit areas (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 1/14). Hu said that the total amount earmarked by the central government for HIV/AIDS programs -- about $12 million -- "would be utterly inadequate even if multiplied 100 times," according to the Morning Post. While Hu said that the government's attitude toward AIDS was changing, he said that it was not doing enough to fight the epidemic and chances are "slim" that lawmakers would heed the action plan that Aizhixing proposed, according to the Morning Post (South China Morning Post, 3/10). Such lobbying on the part of nongovernmental organizations is "rare," especially on such controversial and taboo subjects as AIDS, Reuters reports. "We hope, first of all, the AIDS problem will not continue to be a sensitive topic. It should be the kind of issue everyone can discuss and consider. We're aiming for this kind of goal here during the congress," Hu said. As part of their campaign, Aizhixing unfurled a banner, saying "Pay attention to AIDS, pay attention to children, pay attention to tomorrow," in their offices, as the issue is too sensitive to hang the banner elsewhere. Hu explained that the risks associated with drawing attention to the taboo subject are "there everyday" (Ruwitch, Reuters, 3/10).
Ministry of Health Launches Regional HIV/AIDS Treatment Pilot Programs
The Chinese Ministry of Health on Friday launched a national pilot program to be conducted in 51 counties over the next three years to search for effective ways to prevent and treat HIV/AIDS, China Daily reports. Approximately 80% of the pilot programs will be in rural areas, where the majority of HIV-positive people live. The central and local governments will fund the program, which includes establishing clinics, adapting existing hospital facilities for HIV/AIDS treatment and testing, enhancing public awareness campaigns and training HIV specialists. By the end of the year, 100 counties are expected to be included in the program, and by the end of the third year, more than 90% of HIV-positive people in the pilot regions are expected to have basic medical treatment and social and mental support, according to Sun Jiangping, deputy director of the National Center for AIDS/STD Control and Prevention (Feng, China Daily, 3/8).