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Grassroots civil society and NGOs need to play a greater role in China's fight against HIV and AIDS, Health Minister Chen Zhu said on Saturday.
Speaking at a ceremony to mark the 25th World AIDS Day on Saturday, he said the country has a low prevalence of HIV, saying the virus has been found in less than 0.06 percent of the population.
He said sexual intercourse has become the main channel of HIV infection, particularly among homosexual men, and said a major difficulty in the fight against the virus now lies in detection.
"Grassroots organizations can get access to communities such as the gay community more easily and provide the services they need," Chen said. "They need better circumstances to lower their costs and become more able to help."
Almost 1,000 social groups at the grassroots level in China specialize in HIV prevention and treatment, said Zhang Wenkang, president of the Association to Prevent and Treat Sexually Transmitted Diseases and HIV/AIDS.
"They are closer to HIV carriers, patients and their families," he said. "As a result, they play a much more important role in helping these people and communicating to the public what they need.
"I hope the government can offer more support by lessening the red tape in registration procedures and training groups to become more competent in coping with the issue."
Gabriel Jaramillo, general manager of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, also noted the important role NGOs have in fighting the disease.
"It is only with a very strong intervention from civil society that we can defeat the disease," he said.
In 2011, the fund froze grants to China's programs, saying the authorities had not channeled enough money to NGOs.
Jaramillo described China's experience in controlling HIV as "an example to the world".
"We hope to benefit from what China is doing so that we can export it and take it to other countries," he said. "And I hope we have a huge contribution from China in less privileged nations."
(China Daily 12/03/2012 page4)