Chinese Government Produces ‘Flurry of Publicity’ on HIV/AIDS Epidemic
China this week in a "flurry of publicity" coinciding with World AIDS Day, which was on Dec. 1, launched several public service announcements and programs to educate people about HIV/AIDS, the New York Times reports. The Chinese government for several years has blocked media coverage of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and there is a widespread lack of public awareness about the disease, according to the Times. A recent poll by Futures Group Europe and Horizon Market Research found that 19.9% of survey participants had never heard of AIDS and only 13.4% knew how HIV is transmitted. The "most dramatic moment" came on Monday when Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao appeared on Chinese state television greeting AIDS patients (Yardley, New York Times, 12/2). The appearance marked the first time a senior Chinese leader publicly addressed the country's HIV/AIDS epidemic (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 12/3). AIDS advocates say that this week's "public relations push" represents a shift in attitudes about HIV/AIDS awareness, the Times reports. "This was like breaking the ice," Joel Rehnstrom, UNAIDS coordinator for China, said, adding, "It's something that a lot of people working in the AIDS field inside China and outside have been hoping for and waiting for." However, many challenges in the fight against AIDS remain for China, including the task of creating a national health system able to confront the disease and deliver antiretroviral drugs and deciding whether to establish a needle-exchange program or increase condom distribution, according to the Times (New York Times, 12/3).
HIV in Hemophiliacs
Contaminated blood products remain a major means of HIV transmission in Shanghai and at least 54 hemophiliacs in the city have contracted HIV through blood products, China Daily reports. About 6.5% of Shanghai's 886 HIV-positive people contracted the virus from contaminated blood products, according to figures from the city's Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. The local government since 2002 has provided free medical treatment and a monthly stipend of about $121 to HIV-positive individuals who contracted the disease from contaminated blood products (Xing, China Daily, 12/2). Tainted blood has also been a major means of HIV transmission in rural areas, where a government blood collection scheme in which farmers sold their blood at state hospitals and private clinics was found to have spread HIV, Reuters reports. Government and health officials declined to comment, according to Reuters. "That's a state secret," one health official said (Reuters, 12/2).