Hope for fighting HIV/AIDS in China?
MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Intravenous drug use represents the single largest cause of HIV transmission in China, accounting for 44.3 percent of infections. But people infected with HIV through sexual transmission are the fastest growing group. Sexual transmission accounts for 43.6 percent of total HIV/AIDS cases, but almost half the new infections. Discussing both of these causes ...
Intravenous drug use represents the single largest cause of HIV transmission in China, accounting for 44.3 percent of infections. But people infected with HIV through sexual transmission are the fastest growing group. Sexual transmission accounts for 43.6 percent of total HIV/AIDS cases, but almost half the new infections. Discussing both of these causes of HIV/AIDS has traditionally been taboo in China. However, the government has quietly embarked up on a series of efforts designed to tackle the disease. A recent report published by The Lancet tracks just how far China’s efforts have come. Some notable achievements:
- Needle exchange programs have been instituted in China’s second 5-year Action Plan to Control AIDS (2006-2010). There were 729 exchange sites at the end of 2006, up from 93 at the start of the year.
- Methadone maintenance therapy has been incorporated into China’s AIDS strategy. After a successful pilot program in 2004, plans are in place to open 1,500 new methadone maintenance treatment clinics for 300,000 heroin users by 2008.
- An official program to promote safe sexual practices among commercial sex workers has been in place since 1998. Between 1998 and 2001, a study found the rate of condom use increased by 13 percent to 68 percent. The prevalence of gonorrhea dropped from 26 percent to 4 percent, and the prevalence of chlamydia was reduced by 15 percent to 26 percent.
- Free HIV testing has been made available in over 2,300 counties in 3,037 sites, covering all provinces. This is up from 365 counties in 15 provinces in 2002.
In addition, Chinese President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao have made special efforts to be seen publicly shaking hands and meeting with AIDS patients, helping to reduce the stigma and misinformation surrounding AIDS in China. Recently, too, the Chinese government finally allowed activist Gao Yaojie to visit the United States to accept an award for her role in exposing China’s AIDS epidemic after denying her request repeatedly before. Of course, in a country where there are still 650,000 people living with HIV/AIDS, there’s still a long way to go. The upside, though, is that there’s now a better trajectory than the 10 million cases predicted for 2010 by the United Nations just a couple of years ago.
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