Chinese Government, Merck Partner To Launch HIV/AIDS Prevention, Treatment Project
The Chinese government and U.S.-based pharmaceutical company Merck on Wednesday launched a joint HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment project in the country, Xinhuanet reports. Merck will fund the initiative with $30 million over five years, and China's Ministry of Health will provide medical personnel and equipment for the project, which is expected to begin later this fall in a southwestern province of China. The project aims to prevent the spread of HIV and provide treatment and care for HIV-positive patients, according to Xinhuanet (Xinhuanet, 5/11). The initiative will aim to identify high-risk groups, such as injection drug users and commercial sex workers; promote HIV/AIDS awareness and education programs; expand condom distribution and needle-exchange programs; offer care and treatment to HIV-positive individuals; train health care professionals; and provide social and economic support to HIV/AIDS patients (Merck release, 5/11). The Chinese government estimates that there are 840,000 HIV-positive people in the country and that 80,000 of those people have AIDS. However, international experts and advocates say that the actual number of HIV-positive people in China probably is between one million and 1.5 million. UNAIDS has said that the number of HIV-positive people living in China could increase to 10 million by 2010 unless steps are taken to address the disease (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 3/14).
"China welcomes the support of the international business community to join the fight against HIV/AIDS," Chinese Vice Premier Wu Yi said on Wednesday, adding that HIV/AIDS work is "the common responsibility of society as a whole, including business." Chinese Vice Minister of Health Wang Longde said, "The current situation we face in China to prevent HIV is severe," adding, "We are in urgent need of the support from every aspect of society to fight this disease. This partnership with Merck ... will have a positive impact on the comprehensive prevention and control of HIV/AIDS through mobilizing the contributions of society as a whole." Judy Lewent, CFO and president of Merck's Human Health Asia, said, "We are dedicated to a long-term partnership with the government of China and are committed to supporting efforts towards deterring the progress of the epidemic in China," adding, "Merck brings extensive expertise in the field of HIV/AIDS and experience in supporting a comprehensive approach to HIV/AIDS management" (Merck release, 5/11). Trevor Neilson, executive director of the Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS, lauded the partnership, saying, "Merck's commitment to tackle HIV/AIDS among drug users and sex workers presents a unique opportunity for China and shows that companies don't need to shy away from HIV/AIDS prevention programs in countries where the epidemic is still centered on [high-risk] groups" (GBC release, 5/11).