China praised for AIDS fight

International medics give rare praise for government efforts to tackle disease.

    China offers a range of free services and programmes for people living with HIV/AIDS [GALLO/GETTY]

    According to the government some 650,000 Chinese have been infected with HIV, the virus which causes AIDS.
    Detels and his colleagues said China's fight against AIDS was led by example, such as Hu's public handshakes with AIDS patients which they said helped battle the stigma faced by many who were HIV positive.
    "I think that was enormously important," he said.
    The team said China had learned from mistakes in the 1980s when the government had tried to keep AIDS out of the public eye.
    "These early policies did little to stop transmission of HIV; in fact, they probably promoted concealment of risk activities and made identification of HIV reservoirs more difficult," they wrote.
    They said the challenge of managing the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) epidemic in 2003 had further motivated the government to take aggressive policy action on HIV-related issues.
    China had initially tried to cover up the SARS outbreak, which infected 8,000 and killed nearly 800 worldwide before it was contained.
    "SARS showed not only how infectious diseases could threaten economic and social stability but also the effect of China's policies on international health problems," the team of medics said.
    The report noted the Chinese government now provides free AIDS programmes including drugs to rural residents and city-dwellers without insurance.
    It offers free voluntary counselling and testing, free drugs to HIV-infected pregnant women to prevent mother-to-child transmission, and HIV testing of newborn babies.
    Free schooling for AIDS orphans, and care and economic assistance to the households of people living with HIV/AIDS are also part of the China's campaign against the disease.
    "These bold programs have emerged from a process of gradual and prolonged dialogue and collaboration between officials at every level of government, researchers, service providers, policymakers and politicians, and have led to decisive action," the team said.
    HIV infects 39 million people globally and experts fear the incurable disease will spread even farther if countries, particularly in the developing world, do not act to control it.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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