Time.com Examines Efforts To Curb HIV/AIDS in ChinaTime.com on Wednesday examined China's efforts to curb the spread of HIV/AIDS and address the rising number of related deaths in the country. China announced in February that HIV/AIDS was the country's No. 1 deadly infectious disease in 2008, resulting in almost 7,000 deaths in the first nine months of last year. Time.com reports that the "fact that HIV ... is a significant and increasing cause of death" in the country "shows that government programs are not reaching enough people." Bernhard Schwartlander, coordinator of UNAIDS in China, said that it is "very difficult" to discuss sex in China's schools, workplaces and relationships. He added, "If they don't know about it, how can they protect themselves?"
According to Time.com, UNAIDS reports that at the end of 2007, about 700,000 people were living with HIV in China, with about 85,000 cases having progressed to AIDS. Although that statistic "isn't staggering ... the potential for things to get worse is alarming," Time.com reports. Schwartlander said, "For a long time China missed the opportunity to tackle AIDS head on. They tried to avoid it and I think they really ignored the problem." UNAIDS estimates that China's AIDS awareness programs currently reach between 20% and 40% of the country's at-risk communities, such as commercial sex workers, injection drug users and men who have sex with men. Schwartlander said that the "big question" regarding China's HIV/AIDS efforts is how to "make sure these good, sensible policies and ideas are really implemented throughout the whole country," which has a population of about 1.3 billion. He said policies that are implemented in China's urban areas, such as Beijing, have to be effectively implemented in the country's rural areas and communities, where 60% of the population lives. "Unless you understand how you can translate the policies into the realities of where the people are living, you will not succeed," Schwartlander said, adding, "There's an opportunity here to make sure 50 million people don't become infected" (Webley, Time.com, 4/8). This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.