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More areas progress in HIV/AIDS battle
( 2003-11-10 08:03) (China Daily)

The number of counties advanced to "model'' ranking in the comprehensive prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS will be increased to 127 from 51 by the end of 2003, a Xinhua report said on Saturday.

The nation already has 51 such counties in areas that have been hit hard by the deadly disease. In those areas, the Health Ministry has launched wide-ranging initiatives that include education, treatment, consultation and patients' considerations.

The nation is also committed to offering free treatment to HIV carriers and AIDS patients in the rural areas and to people in urban AIDS-infected areas who face financial difficulties.

And around 5,000 HIV carriers and AIDS patients living in poverty will receive such free treatment this year, and it is expected to be available for all poor HIV/AIDS victims next year, according to the health officials.

Ministry statistics released on Saturday show that China has roughly 840,000 people with HIV/AIDS, including 80,000 HIV/AIDS patients, through the end of September.

However, about 70 per cent of the victims are too poor to afford the medical care they require, said Li Liming, director of the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.

The ministry has also pledged to offer free medicine to patients with economic woes and to exempt their children from school fees.

Apart from government assistance, China's AIDS victims might also have access to the cheaper drug "cocktail therapy'' in the near future, said David Da-i Ho, developer of the therapy. He spoke at a press conference in Beijing on Friday, noting that the cost and prices for the treatment have fallen internationally and may drop to US$150 for one patient annually in developing countries if negotiating with relevant international medicine corporations succeed.

According to Wei Jian'an, a professor with the Chinese Academy of Traditional Chinese Medicine, currently only 5 per cent of HIV/AIDS patients in China can afford this expensive therapy.

Ho said at present the cost is US$300-500 per year in developing countries.

However, Chinese patients are still denied such a favourable price because of factors like intellectual property rights, said Ho, a pioneering HIV/AIDS researcher, expressing optimism that Chinese HIV/AIDS patients will "soon'' be offered such prices.

In relation to other endeavours in combating HIV/AIDS, former US President Bill Clinton will attend an international seminar on HIV/AIDS and SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and deliver a lecture on global HIV/AIDS prevention and control efforts, said Xinhua.

Clinton, who has used his influence to push for the global prevention and control of HIV/AIDS since he his presidency ended, will speak at the seminar which is set to open Monday in Beijing, insiders said.

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