Chinese Official Calls for National Effort to Fight AIDS, Says People Covering Up Epidemic Will Be ‘Severely Punished’
Chinese Vice Premier Wu Yi on Wednesday called for a national effort to fight the spread of HIV/AIDS in the country, adding that officials found trying to cover up the epidemic would be "severely punished," AFP/Channel News Asia reports (AFP/Channel News Asia, 4/8). The Chinese government estimates that there are 840,000 HIV-positive people in the country and that 80,000 people have AIDS; however, some experts believe that those figures are underestimates. The United Nations estimates that there are at least one million HIV-positive people in China, and that number could grow to 20 million people by 2010 (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 3/23). Speaking at a national HIV/AIDS control conference in Beijing, Wu said that the epidemic is at a "critical point," according to BBC News. He added, "We can completely contain the momentum if we take it seriously" (BBC News, 4/8). Ray Yip, director of the China-U.S. AIDS Prevention and Care Project, who also spoke at the conference, said that the country still has a "window of opportunity" to prevent the virus from spreading from high-risk groups -- including sex workers and injection drugs users -- to the general population. Wu called on local officials to strengthen prevention education, stop illegal blood sales, prevent in-hospital infections through unsafe blood transfusions, increase the availability of condoms and sterile needles and improve surveillance and monitoring of the epidemic, according to AFP/Channel News Asia. Many local officials do not know how many HIV/AIDS cases exist in their areas and are reluctant to report them for fear of scaring off foreign investors, AFP/Channel News Asia reports (AFP/Channel News Asia, 4/8). However, Wu said that officials must report information on the epidemic "timely and faithfully," adding, "[A]ny people who intend to hide the epidemic ... will be severely punished."
Pilot Zones, Research Center
Chinese officials announced a list of 51 county-level regions that will serve as pilot zones for the country's AIDS prevention and treatment program. The zones, which the Ministry of Health selected in 2003, have more significant HIV/AIDS problems than the more than 2,000 other counties in the country. Most of the pilot zones are in regions where a large percentage of the HIV-positive people were infected through a government-sponsored blood-selling scheme in the 1990s, according to China Daily (Zhang, China Daily, 4/7). In the early 1990s, hundreds of thousands of poor Chinese farmers contracted HIV through the government program, which paid them for their blood and sold it at state hospitals and private clinics (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 3/15). In addition, China's first legal research center on AIDS-related issues has been established in Shanghai City. The center, which employs eight consultants and 13 researchers, will conduct academic research, provide legal aid and write legislative proposals for AIDS-related issues. The center is the first of its kind in the country to explore the legal rights of HIV/AIDS patients. China now has more than 300 national and local laws on HIV/AIDS prevention and control. A recent amendment draft to China's 15-year-old law on contagious disease prevention and control prohibits forcible isolation of HIV/AIDS patients (XinhuaNet/China View, 4/7).