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Education of women stressed in HIV fight
By Sun Xiaohua (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-07-12 05:51

Education to protect women from HIV/AIDS was called for yesterday to prevent and control increasing infections among Chinese women.

Speaking at a teleconference held to mark yesterday's World Population Day, Minister of Health Gao Qiang said the proportion of China's HIV/AIDS sufferers who are women jumped from 19.4 per cent in 2000 to 27.8 per cent last year.

"In March this year, the proportion of women rose to 28.1 per cent," he said.

Taking part in the teleconference, Gu Xiulian, Vice-Chairwoman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC), stressed the urgent need to increase HIV/AIDS education among China's women.

"A lower standard of education and lower economic and social status create conditions in which women more easily infected with the virus," she said.

The story of Zheng Xiufang, a 47-year-old female farmer in Anhui Province, East China, is a case in point. To help raise money for her family, and unaware of the possible dangers, Zheng began selling her blood in 1993. Four years later, in 1997, she tested positive for HIV/AIDS.

According to Ministry of Health statistics, fewer than 40 per cent of women in the countryside know how to protect themselves from contracting HIV, and women on the whole know less about the disease than men.

Gu said that HIV/AIDS education should be strengthened and targeted particularly towards female teenagers, single women, migrant women and female farmers.

Xu Shuqin, an anti-HIV/AIDS volunteer from Henan Province, one of the Chinese areas hardest-hit by HIV/AIDS, said she had visited a village where 90 per cent of residents had sold their blood and several had caught HIV.

Xu said women in rural areas should be taught how to protect themselves, and called for equality between men and women, more care for girls and women, and greater protection of women's legal rights.

(China Daily 07/12/2005 page2)

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