Gov't goes provincial in fight against AIDS
Provincial and local health departments are being asked to apply for funding for HIV/AIDS research as China raises its battle against the disease to a "comprehensive level."
A recent Ministry of Health release says AIDS killed 80 people across China in May, becoming the fourth deadliest infectious disease after tuberculosis, rabies and hepatitis.
The ministry also issued a circular last week to health departments across the country seeking research topics related to the prevention and control of the pandemic.
Any research is encouraged as long as it involves the evaluation of China's overall strategy and policies on HIV/AIDS control and prevention, the assessment of the distribution and use of resources in the anti-HIV/AIDS campaign, or the exploration of effective AIDS education and intervention.
Once approved, the research is expected to get underway immediately and will receive funding from the ministry.
"The emphasis of this year's research is to evaluate the country's overall strategy and policies on HIV/AIDS control and prevention," said ministry official Lei Suwen, who is charged with collecting applications.
"The research will be financed by the Chinese Government," Lei said. He did not know how much would be spent on each research project or the whole programme, or whether funding would be assessed by need.
Last year, the Chinese Government funded research into 11 AIDS-related areas - mainly medical - with this research is still ongoing.
A World Health Organization (WHO) official yesterday spoke highly of this latest effort by China.
"It comes at a very proper time," Zhao Pengfei, senior AIDS programme officer with the WHO's Beijing Office, said.
But Zhao said little had been done by the Chinese Government on the efficient use of HIV/AIDS funding and the most effective way to conduct AIDS education and intervention, despite a lot of money being injected into the anti-HIV/AIDS cause.
By 2007, the Chinese Government will have spent 3.9 billion yuan (US$474 million) on helping local governments fight the disease.
The United States also pledged last week to contribute US$35 million over the next three years in a joint effort with China to combat AIDS.
"So it's of great importance to use funds effectively, but that's not the case now in many provinces, such as Central and Southwest China's Henan and Yunnan provinces," said Zhao.
Zhao also warned AIDS and safe-sex education might easily become a mere formality or slogan, so an assessment is urgently needed to test the effectiveness of the programmes.
Some local health departments had not even received the circular, even though the application process is supposed to end before July.
Wang Kaili, deputy director of the Disease Control and Prevention Department in Heilongjiang Province, said he had not seen the circular yet, but described the research as "a tough job."
Between 2001 and 2002, Heilongjiang's health department successfully carried out government-funded research into the prevention of the spread of AIDS among homosexuals in China.
(China Daily 06/13/2005 page1)