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WHO calls for China's attention to TB, AIDS
Updated: 2004-04-21 10:00

Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO) Lee Jong-Wook on Tuesday suggested China pay more attention to tuberculosis (TB) and HIV/AIDS in its disease control endeavor.

Lee said in a lecture at the Beijing Union Medical College that China's investment to TB control has been increasing since 2000, but the disease detection rate was 39 percent at the end of 2003, far from reaching the 70 percent target.

According to a recent assessment issued by the UN Country Team in China, China had approximately 4.5 million active TB cases, including 1.5 million of the highly infectious smear-positive form.The incidence of TB is about 50 percent higher in the poorer central-western provinces compared to the wealthier eastern provinces.

"Related to this is China's high rate of multi-drug-resistant TB, affecting 40 percent of the people with TB in this country," he said, adding that the main cause is inappropriate and insufficient treatment of patients.

On AIDS prevention and treatment, Lee said the current estimateis that about 840,000 people in China are living with HIV. "This number could become 10 million in 2010 unless effective actions are taken now."

With 40 million people infected with HIV/AIDS at present and 30 million already dead, HIV/AIDS has become a global health disaster.

"There is still no vaccine or cure for the disease, but the anti-retroviral medicine developed in the 1990s enables patients to recover their strength and live a normal life," Lee said.

Last December, the WHO took its first step toward creating universal access to medicine by launching a proposal to provide anti-retroviral medicines to 3 million patients by 2005. The initiative also included personnel training of 60 countries, building a medicine procurement and distribution center and strengthening the national health system.

Lee said he was glad to see that the Chinese government showed strong support for the initiatives. "I believe the actions [on AIDS prevention and treatment] have already been established with the recent national conference on AIDS sponsored by the Chinese State Council. This is very encouraging."

Meanwhile, Lee pointed out that the increase of life expectancy helps the transition of China's health problems. "Communicable diseases are replaced by non-communicable ones, which are the dominant causes of death in China."

Lee said the basic pattern reflected the major risk factors forchronic diseases, which include tobacco consumption, unhealthy diet and physical inactivity.

"These and other risk factors are still at an early stage of development in China and the investment for prevention will be less costly if it were done now rather than later," he said.

This is Lee's first official visit to China as WHO director general since he took post on July 21, 2003. During his two-day visit here, he also met with Chinese leaders and held talks with Chinese health officials.

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