Many Chinese Children Living With HIV/AIDS Do Not Have Treatment Access, Report Finds
Children living with HIV/AIDS in China, particularly those in rural areas, often do not have access to treatment because of associated expenses or because their families are unaware of government-funded treatment programs, according to a report released Monday by Asia Catalyst, Reuters/Boston Globe reports. Asia Catalyst Executive Director Sara Davis said, "China has made great progress in the fight against AIDS, but far too many children are getting the wrong AIDS treatment."
Most of the estimated 10,000 pediatric HIV/AIDS cases in China resulted from contaminated blood transfusions during the 1990s -- concentrated in the central Henan province or the southwest Yunnan province -- or mother-to-child transmission. According to Reuters/Globe, 9,000 HIV cases resulting from MTCT were reported in 2005. Many HIV-positive children die before age five, often undiagnosed as living with the virus, according to Reuters/Globe. Although the government provides no-cost generic versions of four first-line medicines, many families still cannot afford associated fees or the cost of treatment for AIDS-related illnesses, according to the report (Hornby, Reuters/Boston Globe, 4/19). In addition, the report found that there is a lack of doctors in Henan and Yunnan trained to address HIV/AIDS and that many doctors in rural areas cannot recognize symptoms of the disease. According to the report, although the government requires hospitals to provide HIV/AIDS care, funding often is inadequate, meaning that there is no incentive to identify or treat patients (Mooney, The National, 4/20). In addition, many patients have developed resistance to first-line treatments, while others either live too far from hospitals to seek treatment or are turned away from hospitals or schools because of stigma, according to the report (Reuters/Boston Globe, 4/19).
Davis said that many people living with HIV/AIDS who have become resistant to first-line treatment cannot afford second-line treatment, although the country "has the capacity" to produce second-line medicines. She called on the government to issue compulsory licenses to produce these medicines and urged the Obama administration to support this practice (The National, 4/20). Asia Catalyst said the Chinese government must "fill in the gaps" in treatment by broadening coverage for additional medical expenses that HIV-positive people face and providing lower-cost second-line treatment (Reuters/Boston Globe, 4/19).
The report is available online (.pdf).