Chinese PM vows to check AIDS

Agence France Presse

Beijing, June 14:

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao told a top UN official that China is “determined and capable” of controlling its exploding HIV/AIDS epidemic, state media said today. “China is still facing serious challenges in HIV/AIDS prevention and control, but the Chinese government is determined and capable of curbing the spread of the disease to ensure the people live a healthy and peaceful life,” Wen said, according to the Xinhua news agency. He made the comments in a meeting with Peter Piot, executive director of the United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), who last week said a “truly exceptional response” was needed from Beijing to get on top of the epidemic. China has an estimated 840,000 people infected with HIV, including 80,000 with full blown AIDS, according to official figures. International groups believe the real figure is much higher. The United Nations has predicted 10 million cases in China in five years’ time if the outbreak goes unchecked.

Wen said the Chinese government understood the risk and attached great importance to curbing the spread of the disease. China’s cabinet set up a high-level committee to oversee HIV/AIDS prevention last year and the government has formulated a national guideline on prevention and enacted a series of policies, he said. “We also greatly increased financial input and manpower into the fight against HIV/AIDS,” Wen said. In September 2003 the government announced it would provide free anti-retroviral treatment to AIDS patients in rural areas and to urban sufferers with financial difficulties. The government also promised free HIV screening, therapy to intercept mother-to-infant transmission and infant HIV testing, and financial assistance for orphans whose parents have died of AIDS. Wen said China also increased intervention work among groups with high-risk behavior and enhanced public education to improve people’s awareness of self-protection and reduce social discrimination.

“Those efforts have led to significant results,” he said.