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China, US launch cooperation in fighting AIDS
( 2003-10-21 01:24) (Xinhua)

Public health authorities of China and the United States on Monday pledged to work more closely to fight AIDS in China.

Chinese and US health officials and disease control experts inaugurated a Beijing HIV/AIDS office of the Global AIDS Program, initiated by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ( CDC).

The China office would "garner greater national and local government commitment to fighting HIV/AIDS" and "strengthen Chinese efforts in HIV/AIDS prevention and care", said a spokesman for the office.

Describing HIV/AIDS a "very urgent public health issue" in China, US CDC director Julie Gerberding said the program would provide information and expertise to assist China.

China's health ministry estimated that at least one million Chinese are infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. The annual rate of the increase of HIV carriers has averaged 30 percent in recent years. Medical experts warned the number of HIV carriers could soar to 10 million by 2010 if no effective measures are taken to control the disease now.

"The biggest challenge we're facing is how to prevent the disease from transmitting to the general public from high-risk people such as prostitutes," said Li Liming, director of the Chinese Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Inadequate recognition by central and local governments, intense AIDS-related discrimination among the public, and lack of testing, treatment and care services were also cited as problems in China.

However, Vice-Health Minister Huang Jiefu said China would " honor its commitment to take transparent and open-minded measures" to address the problem, and to conduct swift international cooperation.

"China has learned many lessons from the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak, and one of them is international cooperation," he said.

The office will work with the Chinese CDC to strengthen national and local surveillance systems of HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases. It also aims to develop basic care and treatment models for China's vast rural areas.

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