China’s HIV/AIDS Response Should Be Similar to SARS Response, Experts Say
Although China's "belated awakening" to the HIV/AIDS epidemic, sparked by its response to the recent SARS outbreak, is "encouraging," more is needed to combat the disease in the large country, according to experts who attended a conference in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, U.N. Wire reports. The conference was sponsored by the Asia Society, the U.S.-China AIDS Foundation and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. UNAIDS Executive Director Peter Piot said that the Chinese government's announcement of a "five-point plan" at the beginning of the U.N. General Assembly in September 2003 was a "good start," but he added that the government's "tardy recognition" of the epidemic is "not enough" without a "quick and forceful" response similar to its efforts in spring 2003 to combat SARS, according to U.N. Wire (Hukill, U.N. Wire, 1/13). Last year during a symposium on HIV/AIDS and SARS at Tsinghua University in Beijing, Piot said that disease tracking and reporting systems used during China's SARS outbreak could be applied to the AIDS epidemic (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 11/10/03).
Piot also said that because of the country's large population and land mass as well as its "cultural variations," national statistics on HIV/AIDS are inaccurate and officials should focus on "provinces, at communities." Bates Gill of the Center for Strategic and International Studies said, "We can go to Beijing and hear the right words, but we all know the real challenge is implementing the policy created in Beijing at the provincial levels" (U.N. Wire, 1/13). The Chinese government estimates that there are 840,000 HIV-positive people in the country and that 80,000 have AIDS; however, some experts believe that those figures are an underestimate. The United Nations estimates that there are at least one million HIV-positive people in China and the number could grow to 20 million people by 2010 (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 12/15/03).