China Has Made ‘Substantial Progress’ in Fight Against HIV/AIDS, Still ‘Long Way To Go,’ Opinion Piece Says
China "had made substantial progress in checking the spread of HIV but there is still a long way to go," UNAIDS Executive Director Peter Piot writes in a China Daily opinion piece. Although more than 34,000 people in China now have access to antiretroviral drugs -- compared with 5,000 in 2003 -- "we cannot slow down in our vigilance," Piot writes, adding, "Whereas substantial progress has been achieved in this country, the number of people receiving HIV drugs is still less than half the number who require them." In addition, the "epidemic continues to run ahead of the response: for every two people who start taking antiretroviral drugs, another five become newly infected with HIV," according to Piot.
Many HIV cases occur "in situations that are illegal or outside of mainstream society," Piot writes, adding, "These give rise to apparent contradictions between respect for the law and protecting the health of people who inject drugs or are sex workers, between sexuality and morality, between needs of public security and public health, drug control and safe injections." To "confront AIDS is to confront contradictions in society," according to Piot, who adds, "On closer investigation, however, most of these contradictions prove to be false contradictions. A scientifically based AIDS response can solve them for the greater well-being of more people."
These issues make HIV/AIDS "such a complex problem to deal with," Piot writes, adding, "Complex problems require complex solutions. They also respond best to collective approaches." According to Piot, working "with community groups, for example, can greatly increase the impact -- and effectiveness -- of AIDS strategies." He adds, "In fact, given that most infections are happening in situations outside the mainstream norm, it is often very difficult for government alone to reach those who need to be reached." China has "solid policies in place and has made significant progress in the fight against AIDS," Piot writes, concluding, "It is time now to use the tremendous array of resources at its disposal to build on that progress and to tackle new, tough challenges like harm reduction and increasing civil society involvement" (Piot, China Daily, 10/8).