Village doctors fill breach in HIV control
By Zhang Feng (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-10-27 05:48
Villages are where 70 per cent of China's HIV and AIDS cases are found, so
it's little wonder that a pilot project to fight the epidemic has its roots in
rural areas of Southwest China's Yunnan Province.
Started by the local governments in Dehong Dai and Jingpo Autonomous
Prefecture in the province in May, the project has made progress despite
In five villages in Longchuan and Yingjiang counties, a comprehensive
prevention-and-treatment programme is in place which includes public education,
HIV testing and consultation, high-risk activity intervention, treatment and
Village doctors typically farmers who are given basic training in healthcare
and are paid a nominal sum have become the main force behind the project, said
Teng Yun, director of the HIV/AIDS Control Centre in the prefecture.
In the two counties, which border Myanmar, about 80 per cent of the HIV/AIDS
victims were infected after using contaminated hypodermic needles while taking
Since 1989, when the first case was found among drug abusers in Longchuan,
the virus has spread from seven villages to 214, infecting 1,865 people.
Therefore, the government has taken a new approach by sending health workers to
the villages, instead of being based in counties or towns.
In the spring of 2003, the central government launched a nationwide campaign
for comprehensive control in dozens of counties where the epidemic was
Free services, such as testing for HIV, treatment and education, are
"However, our workers and doctors, who are based in the town centres, are too
far away from the rural sufferers," said Mei Hongying, director of the Longchuan
HIV/AIDS Control Centre.
"The (Yunnan) project lets village doctors play a vital role in helping the
villagers fight against the deadly virus," Mei said.
In the past two months, local doctors gave free HIV tests to people aged
15-60 in the two pilot villages in Longchuan.
They are trained in intervention work, such as handing out condoms and
instructing patients how to take medication correctly, Mei said.
"We can do it because we are their neighbours, familiar with all their
problems," said Yin Zuluan, a 34-year-old village doctor of Guangsong village.
"The villagers trust me."
However, the pilot project has also encountered problems.
For instance, most village doctors each get a salary of less than 100 yuan
(US$12) a month, Mei said, and many of them do not have a chance to receive
Generally there are only one or two doctors per village.
"It is very hard for me to provide follow-up service and do intervention work
among all the families, many of whom live far in the mountains," said Luo Lu, a
village doctor in Longchuan.
"Many poor villagers," Yin added, "cannot afford the bus fare for the trip."
(China Daily 10/27/2005 page1)