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HIV/AIDS war is human rights priority
By Chen Hong (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-04-20 00:22

A senior Chinese human rights official warned over the weekend that preventing and controlling HIV/AIDS has become "one of the most significant and realistic tasks for maintaining human rights in China."

Yang Zhengquan, vice-president of the China Foundation for Human Rights Development, a national non-governmental organization, made the remark on a workshop for the media covering HIV/AIDS issues in China. It was co-hosted by Tsinghua University and the Alfred Friendly Press Fellowships based in the United States.

United Nations statistics indicate that 3 million people died of AIDS last year around the world. And the number of Chinese HIV/AIDS sufferers ranks second in Asia and 14th worldwide.

"The epidemic threatens people's right to life, health and development, and it must be checked, otherwise the tragedy attacking some African countries will occur in this country and consume the progress we made in the last decades to improve the human rights situation in China,'' Yang said.

According to Yang, 53.6 per cent of HIV carriers or AIDS patients are between the ages of 20 and 29 in China. If not effectively reined in, that number will grow exponentially to 12 million carriers by 2010 and the GDP will suffer total losses of as much as 40 billion yuan (US$4.82 billion).

And importantly,HIV/AIDS sufferers are subject to discriminations or even hatred because of the virus they carry.

A survey conducted by the United Nations Development Programme in Sichuan Province in Southwest China showed that 88 per cent of those surveyed thought that people living with HIV/AIDS should not have contact of any form with other people, according to Macleod Nyirongo, a senior deputy resident representative of the programme.

Yang points out that besides the additional financial input and enhanced medical services, the role of media can never be over stressed in properly informing the public about the epidemic and helping to eliminate that discrimination.

His call was echoed by Zhao Baige, vice-minister of the State Commission of Family Planning.

Zhao said the media should work to create a better environment for HIV/AIDS sufferers and promote general education.

Wang Ruotao, an expert with the China-UK HIV/AIDS prevention and care project expressed his wish that a platform for information exchange be built to facilitate communication among the government, public,HIV/AIDS sufferers and the medical workers.

"Only in this way, can Chinese HIV/AIDS sufferers enjoy their individual rights with dignity.'' said Yang.

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