Science Magazine Examines AIDS in China in Third Part of Series on HIV/AIDS in Asia
The June 4 issue of Science magazine features a series of articles on China's AIDS epidemic, the third part of an occasional series of articles on HIV/AIDS in Asia leading up to the XV International AIDS Conference to be held in Bangkok, Thailand, in July. Brief summaries of the articles appear below:
- "Poised for Takeoff?": The Chinese government over the past year has launched a program to provide free antiretroviral drugs; eased its "stern stance" toward injection drug users, who account for two-thirds of the country's estimated 840,000 HIV-positive people; and increased its HIV/AIDS-related spending for 2004 to about $60 million, Science reports. The government is "probably doing more than 500% what it was doing a year ago," epidemiologist Ray Yip of CDC's Global AIDS Program said. However, there is a "boom" in heroin use and commercial sex work, and the "floating population" of more than 100 million migrant workers have created "extensive transportation routes" for HIV, according to Science (Cohen, Science, 6/4).
- "A New Treatment Campaign, But With Limited Weapons": A widespread lack of knowledge about the disease has made it difficult for China to identify people who need treatment, Science reports. Although 80,000 HIV-positive people are thought to need drugs, only 5% have been identified, according to Science. In addition, officials running the treatment program must contend with a shortage of trained health care workers, a "paucity" of drug choices and a lack of equipment to monitor the immune systems of people on treatment (Cohen, Science, 6/4).
- "Changing Course to Break the HIV-Heroin Connection": Regions of China bordering Myanmar, which is the world's second largest heroin producer, have become the "most crucial" regions in China's fight against HIV/AIDS, Science reports. Previously, the country imprisoned injection drug users in more than 700 "compulsory rehabilitation centers," according to a September 2003 Human Rights Watch report. However, the government of the border province of Yunnan, which has more HIV-positive people than any other province in the country, have made a "radical turnaround," promoting harm reduction measures including the distribution of sterile needles, methadone and condoms, according to Science (Cohen, Science, 6/4).
- "Vaccine Development With a Distinctly Chinese Flavor": A team of researchers from the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences led by Chinese CDC virologist Shao Yiming is researching whether it is possible to create a hybrid simian-human immunodeficiency virus capable of infecting Chinese macaques so that the primates can be used for testing HIV vaccine candidates, Science reports. In addition, the group is developing several experimental HIV vaccines (Cohen, Science, 6/4).
- "An Unsafe Practice Turned Blood Donors Into Victims": A government-sponsored blood collection program resulting in at least 250,000 HIV cases led the government in March 2003 to launch the China CARES program, which offers people who contracted HIV through the program domestically manufactured antiretroviral drugs at no cost. High dropout rates have led the government to create direct observation treatment programs in some areas, and a Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria grant calls for the development of additional DOT programs in other areas (Cohen, Science, 6/4).
- "A Scoop of International Proportions": Science profiled Zhang Jicheng, a Chinese reporter who wrote about the transmission of HIV through the blood collection program. Although his then-employer the Henan Science and Technology Daily refused to publish his stories on the issue and eventually complied with a government order to fire him, the international publicity sparked by his discovery led the government to more aggressively address the country's AIDS epidemic (Cohen, Science, 6/4).