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HIV/AIDS sufferers can receive free therapies

China Daily

HIV infected people and AIDS patients in rural China and those urbanites with low incomes are now eligible for no cost anti-virus treatments, according to a document jointly released by the ministries of health and finance yesterday in Beijing.

Since July 2003, the central government has promised to provide free medical treatments for HIV carriers stricken by poverty, said Hao Yang, director of the HIV/AIDS division of the Ministry of Health.

And up to now, about 6,000 AIDS patients have received treatments in various regions, including Central China's Henan Province.

According to a ministerial document, to qualify for free medical treatments, patients must be rural residents, or urban citizens who have economic difficulties and are not covered by any basic medical insurance.

About 8,000 AIDS patients have been registered in China, while it is believed there are 840,000 HIV carriers including 80,000 AIDS patients, according to official estimates.

Only about 10 per cent of the country's HIV/AIDS sufferers know they have the disease, which makes it difficult for health authorities to prevent the virus from spreading and for providing free treatment.

About 70 per cent of those infected with the deadly virus live in rural areas, experts said.

"The launch of new document outlining the cost-free treatment policy is expected to encourage more HIV/AIDS people to come out and ask for free medical treatment," Hao told China Daily.

Meanwhile, health authorities at all levels say they will pay great attention to protecting the privacy interests of the people who seek care, Hao noted.

Patients will be required to show relevant identification documents to confirm their rural residency or economic difficulties when they apply for treatment.

Besides anti-HIV medicines, free medicines against common diseases caused by immunity disorders experienced by people with AIDS or HIV will also be given to patients in areas where serious epidemics and laggard economies exist.

These diseases include bacterial infections,blood poisoning, skin disorders, tuberculosis and dozens of others. Meanwhile, a free medical service will also be provided to prevent the virus spreading from mothers to infants.

The central government will allocate money for the anti-virus medicines for some regions which are seriously stricken by HIV, including Southwest China's Yunnan and Sichuan, West China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, and some provinces in Central China, such as Henan and Hubei.

China announced a list of 51 county-level regions that will serve as pilot zones for AIDS prevention and treatment.

The 51 pilot zones, set up by the Ministry of Health last year, had relatively heavier AIDS problems.

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