Make war against AIDS, drugs 'part of school education'

By Hu Yinan (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-06-26 06:56

AIDS prevention and the fight against narcotics should be a compulsory part of primary and secondary school education, a national symposium has suggested.

The fight against drug addiction, one of the main causes of HIV infection, should focus on prevention and target the youth, it said.

The main organizers of the Ninth National Anti-Narcotics Symposium were China Research Institute for Science Popularization, Soong Ching Ling Foundation, Wu Jieping Medical Foundation and the US-based Lin Ze Xu Foundation.

The symposium's practical implications are exceptionally important, former vice-chairman of the National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee Wu Jieping said in a statement, asserting that the campaign against drugs and AIDS is a social rather than institutional project.

Many scholars agreed with Wu, with the deputy head of Peking University's National Institute on Drug Dependence, Liu Zhimin, saying the country has "10 million or more drug abusers according to WHO estimates". About 700,000 of them are heroin addicts spread across 2,300 cities and counties of the country.

Youngsters are particularly vulnerable to drugs, said Pi Yijun, head of Juvenile Delinquency and Judicature Research Center of China University of Political Science and Law. Some of them don't even know that drug abuse is illegal, while others think narcotics don't harm society in any way.

These youngsters are under the wrong impression that trafficking is merely a form of business and narcotics are just a "fad" or dietary measure that can never lead to addiction, he said.

Drug abuse has claimed more than 49,300 lives in China since the 1980s, a symposium document said, highlighting the growing link between intravenous drug use and the spread of AIDS.

Crimes involving drug traffickers and addicts also caught the national symposium's attention. In some regions, 60 to 80 percent robbery and looting cases involve drug addicts, the document said.

The difference in the level of anti-AIDS education among urban and rural youth is a key problem facing the campaigns against drug abuse and HIV, said Luo Shujie, an anthropologist with Guangxi University for Nationalities. Anti-AIDS educational materials in minority languages are still very limited, he said.

But overall, the "people's war on drugs" that began in 2005 has achieved notable success, especially among the youth. The number of registered drug addicts in the country has fallen from 1.16 million in 2005 to 803,900 today, vice-minister of the Public Security Ministry (PSM) and vice-director of the National Narcotics Control Commission, Zhang Xinfeng, said yesterday.

The percentage of under-35 new addicts, too, has gone down, from 85 percent in 1998 to 59.3 percent, he said.

An earlier PSM conference had said about 68.7 percent of all HIV/AIDS patients in China had been infected through needles they shared to push in drugs. But only 44.3 percent of the 650,000 people suffering from the deadly disease today have been infected the same way.

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