The Chinese Government will take a more positive attitude and more aggressive
actions to support the anti-HIV activities of non-governmental organizations
(NGOs), said Chen Xiaohong, vice-minister of the Ministry of Health.
In an exclusive interview with China Daily, Chen said "the Chinese Government
has fully realized the active and important role of NGOs in HIV/AIDS prevention
and control in the past years."
He vowed that in the future, the Chinese Government will strengthen its
efforts to guide NGOs and establish better working and collaborative mechanisms,
encouraging them to contribute more to the country's HIV/AIDS control and
prevention, which now is mainly done by governments at different levels.
The central government has worked hard to contain the spread of the virus and
treat HIV/AIDS sufferers over the past 10 years. In 2003, it started to provide
free antiviral drugs to all poverty-stricken patients, free education for
children of AIDS-affected families and free HIV testing for all residents.
Additionally, the government and centres for disease control and prevention
(CDC) at different levels have sponsored a number of intervention works, such as
public education, voluntary HIV testing and condom distribution in entertainment
places, to ensure the virus does not spread from so-called high-risk groups,
including drug users and prostitutes, to the general public.
However, in the war against AIDS, governments are not able to do everything.
Vice-Premier Wu Yi said recently that all aspects of society, including various
domestic and overseas communities, NGOs, enterprises, and volunteers, must be
welcomed to join the effort.
Commercial sex and drug trading are illegal in China. Thus, it is quite
difficult for officials and CDC experts to communicate with people who
constitute a large part of the high-risk groups.
For homosexual persons, who are comparatively isolated from the outside
world, the difficulty is even bigger.
But NGOs can do the work much more easily.
"We have the same feeling with them, and what we do could be accepted by them
easily," said Meng Lin, a gay man with HIV.
Meng is the head of "ARK of Love," a Beijing-based informational support
network for people suffering from HIV/AIDS.
"In fact, strictly speaking, our organization cannot be called a real NGO
because we have not registered at any relative authoritative department
according to China's laws and regulations. We can only be called a grass-roots
organization," Meng said.
However, currently the Chinese Government takes a very tolerant and generous
attitude towards grass-roots organizations established by HIV-positive
volunteers, he said, so his organization had been able to do a lot of work in
the past year to protect the rights of HIV/AIDS sufferers.
In some parts of China, such as Shenyang, the capital city of Northeast
China's Liaoning Province, Meng's organization has established several groups of
HIV/AIDS volunteers to negotiate with or push local governments to improve the
living status of people who are HIV positive.
He said there are dozens of grass-roots organizations like "ARK of Love" in
Meanwhile, nearly 50 national NGOs, such as the All-China Women's Federation
and China Family Planning Association, are taking an active part in the
country's war against the deadly virus.
The regulation on HIV/AIDS control and prevention issued by the State Council
early this year has also made it clear that the State supports NGOs and
individuals, encouraging them to intervene among high-risk groups and provide
care and relief for AIDS patients and their relatives.
NGOs and HIV/AIDS volunteers can set up a "bridge" between the patients and
society. They can give more care and understanding to sufferers who need more
than medical treatment, said Xu Lianzhi, a doctor of HIV/AIDS treatment from
You'an Hospital of Beijing.
Since 2002, the central government has allocated at least 20 million yuan
(US$2.5 million) to fuel 231 projects or programmes carried out by NGOs and
various communities in 150 counties of 30 provinces, autonomous regions and
At the same time, the Chinese Government also used money committed by the
Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria to support NGOs' activities.
Since 2004, a total of 72 NGOs had received 3.75 million yuan (US$450,000)
from the Fund's third-round finance injection for uses such as public education
among migrant populations, young persons and prostitutes.
The Fund's fifth-round injection, which was kicked off in July, is projected
to give US$29 million to China for tackling the disease over the coming five
years. Of this, 43 per cent will be used to support NGOs' activities, officials
Governments and NGOs should make joint efforts in HIV/AIDS control just like
the two wings of a bird, said Zhang Weiqing, director of the National Population
and Family Planning Commission.
In many aspects, he added, NGOs can even do better than the government.
According to official statistics released by the United
Nations and the Ministry of Health, 650,000 Chinese now suffer from HIV/AIDS.
Nearly half of all the HIV-positive people reported in 2005 were infected
through unsafe sexual contact.