Washington: China should be praised for its efforts to fight AIDS, and some
of its actions can set an example for other countries, an international team of
researchers said on Thursday.
They said China had learned from its dealing with SARS (severe acute
respiratory syndrome) and was working to control the AIDS virus, which has
infected an estimated 650,000 Chinese.
"China was somewhat slow to respond but once they responded they did it in a
big way," said Roger Detels, an epidemiologist at the University of California,
Los Angeles, who led the team.
"And I think it is appropriate to praise them for responding vigorously."
Writing in the Lancet medical journal, Detels and colleagues singled out the
Chinese government for unusual praise. Chinese President Hu Jintao, for example,
publicly shook hands with AIDS patients, helping to battle the stigma, they
Countries that have succeeded in battling AIDS, such as Uganda and Thailand,
have all had major commitments from the top of the government, he said.
"The challenge of managing the SARS epidemic in 2003 is often credited with
further motivating the government to take aggressive policy action on
HIV-related issues," they wrote.
"SARS showed not only how infectious diseases could threaten economic and
social stability, but also the effect of China's policies on international
The Chinese government now provides free AIDS drugs to rural residents and
city dwellers without insurance. Other measures include:
Free voluntary counseling and testing
Free drugs to HIV-infected pregnant women to prevent mother-to-child
transmission, and HIV testing of newborn babies
Free schooling for AIDS orphans
Care and economic assistance to the households of people living with
"These bold programs have emerged from a process of gradual and prolonged
dialogue and collaboration between officials at every level of government,
researchers, service providers, policymakers and politicians, and have led to
decisive action," concluded the researchers.
The researchers include Wu Zunyou of China's National Center for AIDS/STD
Control and Prevention and Sheena Sullivan of Edith Cowan University, in Perth,
HIV infects 39 million people globally and experts fear the incurable disease
will spread even farther if countries do not act to control