China Should Improve Illicit Drug Treatment Programs To Prevent Spread of HIV, Letter to Editor Says
A recent New York Times article examining how public health authorities in Xinjiang, China, are confronting the link between injection drug use and an increasing number of HIV cases illustrated "one bright spot in China's war against the AIDS epidemic: in Xinjiang, the authorities are beginning to offer methadone to drug users," Sara Davis, executive director of Asia Catalyst, writes in a Times letter to the editor. However, the article did not "show an uglier piece of the picture," Davis writes, adding that each year, "authorities around the country forcibly detain thousands of drug users in prisons -- treatment centers in name only." According to Davis, detainees at the centers are "kept in unclean and overcrowded cells," and they receive "no counseling and are compelled to take part in forced, unpaid labor." Chinese commercial sex workers "also face similar detention," Davis writes, adding that interviews she has conducted have revealed that "all this punitive approach accomplishes is to marginalize those at high risk of HIV infection and drive them underground, away from the authorities and any program that could teach them about preventing HIV." Davis concludes, "China should abolish these fake treatment centers and replace them with real ones" (Davis, New York Times, 11/20).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.