China Needs Massive Education, Treatment Campaigns To Combat Growing HIV/AIDS Epidemic, Opinion Piece Says
The Chinese government needs to undertake "massive" education and treatment campaigns to combat the country's growing HIV/AIDS epidemic, which has become an "emergency of titanic proportions," Cesar Chelala, an international public health consultant for several United Nations agencies, writes in a South China Morning Post opinion piece (Chelala, South China Morning Post, 5/17). The Chinese government earlier this month announced a new nationwide effort to combat HIV/AIDS, including free antiretroviral treatment to reduce the risk of mother-to-child HIV transmission and a new HIV/AIDS awareness campaign. The plan calls for AIDS education to be included in all middle school, vocational school and college curricula. According to the plan, HIV/AIDS prevention posters will be displayed at "entertainment venues," and medical workers will be required to discuss HIV/AIDS prevention methods such as condom usage with patients. The plan calls on railway, civil aviation and other public transportation departments to publicize HIV prevention information to passengers, and the government will provide financial assistance to poor HIV-positive individuals and their families (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 5/10).
'New and Urgent Measures' Needed
Although the government's recent moves are an "important step," China will have to maintain the "political will and a combination of strategies" to successfully combat the epidemic, Chelala says. China's education campaign should focus not only on students but should also target people in high-risk groups, such as injection drug users and sex workers, Chelala says. In addition, China needs to expand access to treatment for individuals who are already HIV-positive, Chelala says. John Chen, an independent researcher based in Hong Kong, has said that the Chinese government should mandate compulsory licensing of antiretroviral drugs to allow cheaper versions to be sold, according to Chelala. Allowing the production of generic antiretrovirals would be justified because China's HIV/AIDS epidemic is a "national emergency" and antiretrovirals are "beyond the means of most [HIV-positive] people," Chelala says. China also could reach an agreement with generic drug manufacturers in Brazil or India to assure access to less-expensive antiretrovirals, Chelala says, concluding that although the Chinese government has recognized that "new and urgent measures" are needed to combat the country's HIV/AIDS epidemic, it must "act now, and it needs to do it rapidly" (South China Morning Post, 5/17).