China’s Efforts Aimed at Fighting HIV/AIDS Discrimination, Stigma Failing, UNDP Officials Say
China's efforts to fight HIV/AIDS-related discrimination in the country are failing to prevent widespread stigmatization of people living with the disease, United Nations officials said Wednesday, Reuters reports. The officials were speaking at the launch of a United Nations Development Programme initiative, called "Positive Talks," that will train 35 people living with HIV to participate in advocacy, prevention, care and awareness efforts at schools, businesses and hospitals across the country (Reuters, 11/28). UNDP earlier this year called on China's commercial media and private business sectors to increase their efforts to fight HIV/AIDS-related stigma and discrimination in the country.
Stigma and discrimination have been significant obstacles to universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support programs in China. A survey conducted earlier this year at 12 Beijing universities considered to be some of the most progressive in the country found that nearly 25% of students would oppose having HIV-positive classmates. The survey also found that 4% of respondents said people should be refused jobs based on their HIV status (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 8/6).
Subinay Nandy, director of UNDP in China, said that the country has done a "tremendous job" in enacting legislation and policies to prevent HIV/AIDS discrimination but that enduring stigma still prevents HIV-positive people from seeking treatment. "We all will agree, widespread stigmas and discrimination in all sections of societal life here in China as elsewhere still exist at a very high level," Nandy said, adding, "There is a stronger need than ever to reach the general public and humanize the face of the HIV epidemic." UNAIDS Country Director Bernhard Schwartlander said, "People who feel stigmatized will not come forward or dare to seek medical treatment and guidance, and by doing so put further fuel on the fire for the spread of HIV."
According to Reuters, the number of new HIV cases in China has been increasing in recent months. Government data found that the number of new HIV cases on mainland China increased from an average of 3,000 monthly during the first six months of this year to an average of 3,200 monthly from January to October (Reuters, 11/28). UNAIDS has estimated that about 650,000 people in China are living with HIV/AIDS (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 11/7).