Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao Appeals to Government, Public for Help in Fighting HIV/AIDS
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao on Saturday ahead of the XV International AIDS Conference in Bangkok, Thailand, released a public appeal for "all levels of government and the entire society [to] attach great importance to preventing and controlling AIDS," London's Guardian reports (Boseley, Guardian, 7/12). 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 an underestimate. The United Nations estimates that there are at least one million HIV-positive people in China (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 6/30). Wen said that the rural areas where most of the population lives presented the greatest challenge because of "backward hygiene and medical conditions" and because people in rural areas "are not well educated about legal and health issues" (Agence France-Presse, 7/9). Wen's statement, which was published on the front page of Chinese newspapers, called on Chinese scientists to "work hard to develop new drugs and optimize therapies" and said that prevention would be a "long-term, arduous task." In addition, Wen said that the country would invest more in the fight against the disease (Guardian, 7/12). Wen also called for expanded HIV testing -- 90% of HIV-positive people in the country are unaware of their status, according to government figures (Agence France-Presse, 7/9). UNAIDS Executive Director Peter Piot on Monday at a session on nongovernmental AIDS organizations in China said that Wen's statement showed that "China means business when it comes to AIDS." However, he said that the country must address AIDS-related stigma and other social issues, such as injection drug use, commercial sex workers and their clients and men who have sex with men (Associated Press, 7/12).
China plans to send 1,300 medical students to rural areas to help with HIV/AIDS prevention programs during their summer break, Reuters reports (Reuters, 7/12). The program is part of the country's AIDS education campaign that 12 government departments, ministries and organizations launched on Saturday. In addition, the government will distribute millions of posters on AIDS prevention to rural villages, urban communities, universities and schools throughout the country. The education campaign also will include "face-to-face" AIDS education for women ages 15 to 49 in 51 counties. Khalid Malik, U.N. resident coordinator in China, said that the program is one of the biggest HIV prevention initiatives in the world (Xinhua News Agency, 7/10).
ABCNews' "Nightline" on Monday focused on HIV/AIDS in Russia and China, two countries where HIV prevalence rates are "exploding." The segment on China examines the unsafe blood collection practices that facilitated HIV transmission in the country and the stigma HIV/AIDS patients experience. The segment includes comments from UNAIDS Executive Director Peter Piot (Wright, "Nightline," ABCNews, 7/12). The segment on Russia examines the lack of needle-exchange programs in cities with high rates of injection drug use and profiles an orphanage serving HIV-positive children. According to "Nightline," Russian President Vladimir Putin has spoken exactly one sentence about HIV/AIDS (Litke, "Nightline," ABCNews, 7/12). A video excerpt of the segment on China is available online in RealPlayer.