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NGO cares for foreign carriers of HIV/AIDS

By Yang Wanli (China Daily) Updated: 2015-12-02 08:12

Twenty-one foreign HIV/AIDS carriers, two women and 19 men, are in regular contact with the China Rainbow support group based in Beijing, the head of the nongovernmental organization said.

"Nine of them are from the United States, two are from the United Kingdom, and the rest are from African countries," Xiao Dong said. "They had trouble getting medical treatment in China and turned to us for help."

According to Xiao, most of the foreigners are aged about 30 and were all infected with HIV/AIDS before they came to China. They all have full-time jobs or long-term plans to stay in Beijing.

The high cost of drugs that can stabilize HIV/AIDS is a major problem, Xiao said. The Chinese government now supports free HIV/AIDS testing services to foreigners, he said, but the treatment is not free.

"Many foreigners don't have insurance covering HIV/AIDS treatment in China," he said. "Apart from the language obstacle, they'd rather not go to hospitals due to concerns about their privacy."

Thailand and India are options for them because drugs made locally in the two countries, with the same components as pills made by big pharmaceutical companies, are sold at a very low price, Xiao said.

He said many foreign HIV/AIDS carriers in Beijing travel to India or Thailand at least once to register for medical treatment and get a doctor's prescription for antiviral drugs. After coming back to China, they can get their drugs through an international drug delivery service.

"The same medicine bought in Thailand or India only costs 350 yuan ($56) per month," Xiao said. "But without medical insurance, you have to spend 3,500 yuan in China."

Xiao said cross-regional HIV/AIDS control faces more challenges in large cities such as Beijing and Guangzhou. "Personnel exchanges will be more frequent in the future with the globalization process in China," he said. "To raise public awareness of HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment is very important."

He said the government should encourage more NGOs to speak in colleges to raise awareness supported by scientific facts.

yangwanli@chinadaily.com.cn

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