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A new weapon in the war to halt HIV
By Wang Zhuoqiong (China Daily)
Updated: 2009-02-19 09:09

A new weapon in the war to halt HIV

LINCANG: Feng Lingxian may not be a doctor or a groundbreaking scientist, but the information she hands out to friends, neighbors and strangers on the street in a small city in Yunnan may just save someone's life.

For two years the 30-year-old has been working for a non-governmental agency to raise awareness of HIV and AIDS among the Dai ethnic minority on the border of Myanmar, reaching out to those most at risk armed with a bag full of leaflets and a warm smile.

Her target groups are mostly men between 18 and 20 who have no stable job, use drugs or visit prostitutes in the city's notorious areas, she said, explaining she sometimes had to resort to confrontational tactics to help break down people's barriers.

"I have to ask difficult questions and, sometimes, it can take one or two months of visits before someone finally opens up their heart to me," said Feng. "Only friends can share their intimate moments, and by becoming their friend and showing them they can trust me I can convince them to take voluntary testing."

Feng is one of 60 field officers for Total Control of the Epidemic's (TCE) Linxiang project, with each covering up to 5,000 people in one or two villages. The scheme has been designed to promote face-to-face exchanges over the issue of HIV and AIDS prevention in places highlighted as high prevalence areas by
China's top heath officials.

"The model is expected to soon be implemented nationwide," said Hao Yang, deputy director of the Ministry of Health's Chinese centre for disease control and prevention (CDC). "One-to-one education, if implemented properly, is 100 percent effective. This model has more impact in areas where more than 5 percent of those in high-risk groups, and 1 percent of the general population, have been infected with HIV or AIDS."

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