Tobias Announces Three-Year, $35M Grant to China To Fight HIV/AIDS, Encourages Increased Cooperation Between Countries
U.S. Ambassador Randall Tobias, head of the State Department Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator, on Tuesday during a visit to China with UNAIDS Executive Director Peter Piot, announced that the United States will donate $35 million over three years to fight HIV/AIDS in the country, China Daily reports. The joint U.S.-China program began in 2002 and has helped establish 15 of the 21 HIV testing sites in Heilongjiang province, according to China's Ministry of Health. The partnership also involves nongovernmental organizations, businesses and other institutions, according to the health ministry. "The program has really helped us," Wu Yuhua, a researcher for Heilongjiang province's disease control and prevention department, said, adding, "We are still short of funds, facilities and professionals with proper knowledge about HIV/AIDS, despite assistance from the central government and foreign organizations in recent years" (Wang, China Daily, 6/8). Tobias during a press conference in Beijing said he is looking at other ways the United States can assist in fighting China's HIV/AIDS epidemic, Xinhua News Agency reports (Xinhua News Agency, 6/8).
Tobias, Piot Comments
Tobias and Piot are scheduled to discuss issues such as reducing HIV/AIDS-related stigma and discrimination, increasing HIV/AIDS awareness and strengthening China's response to the epidemic, AFP/Yahoo! News reports (AFP/Yahoo! News, 6/8). Tobias, who on Tuesday met with officials from China's health ministry and Center for Disease Control and Prevention and underwent HIV testing with Chinese actor Pu Cunxin, said the two countries need to work closely to find a solution to the pandemic, according to Xinhua News Agency. Tobias said he is "impressed and encouraged" with China's HIV/AIDS programs, but he added, "China is a very large country with many problems in the rural areas with regard to AIDS. So while we are encouraged by what's going on, it will be a very long journey" (Xinhua News Agency, 6/8). Piot said, "Chinese leadership at the highest levels has made AIDS a priority issue. These commitments must be made real," adding, "We're encouraged by what we see, but a truly exceptional response is needed to get ahead of the epidemic." Tobias and Piot were scheduled to spend three days in Yunnan province (AFP/Yahoo! News, 6/8).
China's HIV/AIDS Program
The Chinese government has pledged about $611 million over five years for HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment programs. About $474 million of the pledged funds will be used to help local governments combat HIV/AIDS by 2007, according to Wang Longde, director of the government's Office of the Working Committee for HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control. In some areas, the government has focused its efforts on providing antiretroviral drugs to HIV/AIDS patients, while in other areas programs concentrate on HIV testing and public awareness about the disease. China's "four free charges and one care" program provides antiretroviral drugs for HIV-positive people at no cost, as well as free HIV testing, free education for children who lost parents to AIDS-related illnesses, free prenatal treatment for HIV-positive pregnant women and free treatment for older people whose children have died of AIDS-related illnesses. Testing and prevention efforts will focus on groups with an increased risk of contracting HIV, including commercial sex workers, men who have sex with men and prisoners (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 6/6). The health ministry also is urging the distribution of free condoms and the implementation of needle-exchange programs for injection drug users, the AP/Canada.com reports (AP/Canada.com, 6/8). 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 epidemic (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 6/6).