Da China Daily del 30/11/2005
Originale su http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/english/doc/2005-11/30/content_499206.htm

China to unveil 5-year AIDS control plan

Chinese health minister warned on Wednesday that the spread of AIDS could affect the nation's economic development and its "rise or decline", and stressed the need for strong prevention measures.

Minister Gao Qiang said China aimed to keep the number of people infected by the HIV virus to below 1.5 million by 2010.

"AIDS prevention work is an issue relating to the quality of the population, economic development, social stability and the rise or decline of the country," Gao told a news conference hosted by the State Council Information Office.

The ministry had drafted a five-year AIDS prevention action plan which was now awaiting cabinet approval, he said.

China's prevention measures included increased public education, "striking hard" against illegal blood sales, and increasing official accountability, as well as cooperating with the World Health Organisation and other United Nations agencies.

A national survey, conducted in collaboration with the World Health Organization and USAIDS this year found that about 70,000 people have developed AIDS through blood transfusion or blood sales.

Gao said this figure is much smaller than previously estimated in 2003 by the United Nations agencies.

The 1.5 million figure is lower than projections by some international agencies. The WHO estimates that 10 million Chinese may be infected with the virus that causes AIDS by 2010 if nothing is done to prevent transmission.

China is carrying out an assessment of the country's AIDS epidemic situation together with experts from the World Health Organization and the United Nations, Gao said.

"The assessment will reflect China's AIDS situation in a more objective and accurate way," he said. "We'll publicize the results in time."

China's state-grade AIDS monitoring sites rose to 247 in late 2004, a sharp comparison with 194 at the end of 2003. China has so far organized 2,686 working teams specially designed for AIDS prevention among high-risk people.

The government will allocate 800 million yuan (US$100 million) to support AIDS prevention and treatment in 2005, said Gao Qiang.

In comparison, the figure in 2002 was 100 million yuan (US$12.5 million).

The money is mainly used for AIDS check, AIDS knowledge promotion, treatment of AIDS patients, and prevention among high-risk people, said Gao.

In its fresh efforts for nationwide promotion of AIDS knowledge, China will officially launch an education program on December 1 among millions of migrant workers, World AIDS Day.

The program is supposed to spread anti-AIDS knowledge among the migrant workers, who have formed a huge fortune-seeking force flowing between rural and urban areas.

Before this, 12 Chinese central departments carried out joint actions to publicize AIDS knowledge among farmers and students, in which 740,000 villages, 50,000 neighborhood committees, 2,100 colleges 90,000 middle schools were involved, Gao said.

Required by the State Council, China's highest governing body, government leaders at different levels should be directly in charge of AIDS prevention, he said.

"Those who try to cover up the epidemic or conduct dereliction of duties will be held liable," he said.


At the conference, Gao refuted accusations that China covered up human infections of bird flu, but said ill-equipped and ill-trained doctors might be unable to detect cases.

Gao Qiang also said Shanghai Pharmaceutical was in talks with Swiss drug giant Roche to obtain the technology to manufacture the anti-viral drug Tamiflu that can be used to treat bird flu infections in people.

"I am not worried about governments at various levels covering up an epidemic," Gao said. "But I am worried about the inability of our medical and quarantine personnel at the local level to diagnose and discover epidemics in a timely fashion due to their low abilities and relatively backward equipment."

The H5N1 strain is known to have infected 133 people in Asia since late 2003, killing 68 of them. It remains hard for people to catch, but experts fear it could mutate and become easily passed from person to person, sparking a global pandemic in which millions could die.

China has reported 30 outbreaks in poultry caused by the H5N1 avian flu virus this year in 11 regions and provinces, from the far southwest to the frigid northeast, Gao said.

It has confirmed three cases of bird-to-human infections, two of whom have died. There have been no reports of human-to-human infections.

Gao defended the government, saying official figures announced were "transparent, comprehensive and accurate".

He rejected a report on the Web site of US-based Chinese-language news portal Boxun, www.boxun.com, which listed the names and addresses of 70 people it said were infected in the northeastern province of Liaoning alone, 14 of whom had died.

"Apart from creating social chaos, I can't guess what Boxun's intentions are," Gao said.

China, the world's biggest poultry-producing nation, has culled more than 20 million birds this year in a bid to contain the spread of avian influenza and announced plans to vaccinate billions of birds.

The central government will cover 50 percent of vaccination and culling costs of poultry farmers in central China, 20 percent of those on the eastern coast and 80 percent in the western hinterland, the cabinet's National Development and Reform Commission said on its Web site.

The government has exempted poultry farmers from paying income taxes and agreed to refund value-added taxes. The central bank on Tuesday ordered banks to boost working capital loans for poultry companies and bird flu vaccine makers.

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