China Begins Distribution of Antiretrovirals in 51 Counties; Advocates Concerned About Lack of Follow-up, Counseling
After "years of denial and foot-dragging," Chinese authorities have begun distributing antiretroviral drugs through pilot programs in 51 counties for thousands of poor farmers who contracted HIV through a government-backed blood buying scheme in the 1990s, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports (Chao, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 10/15). More than one million Chinese people may have contracted HIV through unsterile blood collection practices in the government-sponsored blood buying programs (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 9/4). The government earlier this year allowed two Chinese pharmaceutical firms to begin producing four antiretroviral drugs and has plans to expand the pilot drug distribution program to 100 counties and 3,000 patients by the end of the year. However, international experts are concerned that the shortage of trained medical staff and the lack of follow-up care and counseling could result in low drug adherence rates and the emergence of drug-resistant strains of HIV. However, China plans to use much of a $98 million grant from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, which is scheduled to be announced this week, to train more doctors to treat HIV-positive people. Although the attitudes of health officials in the central government have shifted, many local officials still deny the existence of AIDS, and some have said they will deny treatment to anyone who complains or protests, according to the Journal-Constitution. In addition, illegal blood sales continue, although most unlicensed blood collection agencies were closed in the 1990s, officials said (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 10/15).
CDC Launches Chinese AIDS Program
The Journal-Constitution on Wednesday profiled Ray Yip, director of a new CDC program in China, which is scheduled to be launched at an official ceremony with CDC Director Julie Gerberding and HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson on Monday. China's program is the newest of the 25 country programs set up by the CDC under its Global AIDS Program, which was established three years ago (Chao, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 10/15). The complete article is available online