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Students to assist rural AIDS education
By Zhang Feng (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-07-12 11:50

More than 1,300 volunteers from China's medical universities will join a campaign to strengthen rural education on HIV/AIDS prevention.

During their summer vacation, the students will go to rural and remote areas, where nearly 80 per cent of the country's HIV/AIDS sufferers are.

The students are part of a campaign to teach villagers how to prevent the spread of the deadly HIV virus.

With technical help from United Nations institutions, including the World Health Organization, the Ministry of Health found about 840,000 HIV carriers in China, including 80,000 AIDS patients, mainly in rural areas.

Thousands of farmers were infected in the early 1990s due to a lack of awareness about the virus and laggard blood collection management. Many sold blood to illegal blood collection stations.

The latest education activity is part of a massive project initiated on Saturday by 12 government departments, ministries and organizations, to sharpen public awareness of AIDS, especially among rural residents, youths and women.

Volunteers will travel to 127 pilot zones, where the AIDS epidemic is particularly serious.

In these pilot areas, the government's policies including free anti-retroviral drugs and free counseling are being practiced, said Vice-Health Minister Wang Longde during a kick-ff ceremony over the weekend.

Meanwhile, millions of AIDS prevention posters will be distributed to villages, urban communities, universities and high schools across the country.

Wang said the posters are different for each target group.

Those for rural and urban residents mainly focus on prevention and government policies while posters for university students include information on drug abuse as well as AIDS information.

The project also includes "face-to-face" education plans for women aged between 15 to 49 in the 51 counties.

Wen urges monitoring

In an article issued prior to the 15th International AIDS Conference which opened yesterday in Bangkok, Premier Wen Jiabao called on Chinese people to prevent and control the disease, saying AIDS is a major health and social issue facing the international community.

Wen's article was read by Wang Longde at the ceremony in Beijing on Saturday.

The premier said for China, this is a key moment in the fight against AIDS. The disease is spreading from high-risk groups to ordinary people in some areas, and the impact on social and economic development has begun to emerge.

"Governments at all levels and the whole society should attach great importance to AIDS prevention and control," he said.

In the revised Law on Infectious Diseases Prevention Control which is expected to take effect later this year, officials are asked to report and control HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases. Or, they will be punished according to the law.

All AIDS prevention and control efforts should be made in accordance with the law while relying on science and technology, said the premier.

Wen called for effort to strengthen monitoring of the epidemic, as well as widely spreading information about HIV/AIDS.

Wen promised the Chinese Government would offer more help to HIV/AIDS victims, such as free medicines for poor sufferers, while protecting their rights and interests.

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