China Issues First Comprehensive HIV/AIDS Prevention, Treatment Statute
China's State Council -- the country's cabinet -- on Sunday released its first comprehensive regulations on HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment, which require local governments to provide confidential HIV testing and antiretroviral drugs to residents, AFP/Yahoo! News reports (AFP/Yahoo! News, 2/12). The regulations, which the council approved on Jan. 18 and will go into effect on March 1, also outlaw discrimination against HIV-positive people and guarantee such people the right to health care, employment, marriage and education, Xinhuanet reports (Xinhuanet, 2/12). The policy, titled "Statute on AIDS Prevention," consists of 64 regulations (South China Morning Post, 2/13). Under the regulations, local governments above the county-level must provide antiretrovirals at no cost to rural and low-income urban HIV-positive people. Local governments also must provide treatment to pregnant women at no cost and counseling and prevention information about mother-to-child HIV transmission. In addition, the government requires all HIV tests be given at no cost, and officials will be barred from revealing the names or other personal information about HIV-positive people (AFP/Yahoo! News, 2/12). People living with HIV are responsible for informing family members and sexual partners of their status, and people who intentionally transmit the virus to others will be punished, according to the statute (AP/Canada.com, 2/12).
UNAIDS Country Coordinator for China Joel Rhenstrom said the regulation to provide confidential testing at no cost "is encouraging" because it "might encourage people who suspect they have the disease to come forward and get tested so they will not spread the disease to others" (AFP/Yahoo! News, 2/12). Li Dun, a professor at Tsinghua University's Centre for the Study of Contemporary China, who was involved in the early drafts of the statute, said the regulations include a requirement that hospitals treat HIV-positive people. Li added that the statute does not provide a means of addressing a lack of coordination between the 20 government departments that are involved in HIV/AIDS programs. Hu Jia -- an HIV/AIDS advocate who recently resigned from Loving Source, a nongovernmental organization that helps children who have lost parents to AIDS-related causes -- said the regulations were mostly a compilation of previous government policies, including the antiretroviral drug provision introduced in 2003. "The problem in China is not the lack of laws but whether these laws will be implemented by local governments," Hu said. According to Hu, many HIV-positive people have died after taking antiretrovirals because the government did not provide "proper counseling with professional doctors, [so] the drugs were not suitable to them" (South China Morning Post, 2/13). An unnamed Chinese government official said the statute aims to strike a balance between protection of HIV-positive people's rights and obligations, adding, "The infected people who deliberately spread the disease will be accused in line with civil or criminal laws" (Xinhuanet, 2/12). According to a report released last month by China's Health Ministry, the World Health Organization and UNAIDS, there are an estimated 650,000 HIV-positive people living in the country, including about 75,000 living with AIDS. The report also estimates that in 2005 there were 70,000 new HIV cases and 25,000 AIDS-related deaths. The country's current HIV prevalence rate is approximately 0.05%, the report says (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 1/26).
Report on Sexual Behaviors of MSM
China on Wednesday released its first in-depth report on the sexual behaviors of men who have sex with men, Xinhuanet reports. The 650,000-page report -- which was funded by the Ford Foundation and is titled "MSM in China: Surveying Sex and Self-Identity" -- includes 400 interviews and case studies that look into the feelings, identities and expressions of MSM from different social and cultural backgrounds, according to a preface by Pan Suiming, director of the Sexual Sociology Institute at the People's University of China (Xinhuanet, 2/9). According to a survey conducted in 2004 by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 80% of MSM in China are "totally ignorant" about their risk of contracting HIV and "mistakenly believe they are safe from HIV/AIDS" (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 12/16/04).