- BEIJING (AP) -- The number
of AIDS patients in China is reaching "frightening" levels, a
renowned expert on the disease said Friday, a day after Beijing said it
would provide free treatment to thousands of sufferers in dire financial
- "There are about a million individuals in China
who are already infected," said Dr. David Ho, executive director of
the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center in New York. "There are some
concerns about what the epidemic will look like 10 years from now and the
numbers might be frightening to some."
- Ho was in Beijing to promote an AIDS summit Monday that
will include a speech by former President Clinton and wide-ranging discussions
- including topics that are traditionally taboo in China, such as care
programs among gays and media coverage of AIDS.
- It will also feature the personal account of a doctor
from central China's Henan province, where an unsanitary blood-selling
industry sped AIDS transmission.
- The problem of HIV and AIDS "is obviously a health
crisis," Ho said. "When it's a problem of that magnitude it has
to be a great concern to the leadership and, I think, to the general public."
- China has been slow to disclose the extent of the disease
and detained two activists who distributed a government report linking
AIDS to blood-selling in Henan.
- But Beijing has more recently shown greater willingness
to confront AIDS. Executive Vice Health Minister Gao Qiang said Thursday
that 5,000 HIV and AIDS patients with "financial difficulties"
will receive free treatment through next year.
- According to the government's Xinhua News Agency, Gao
said China's central and local governments have committed $820 million
to set up anti-AIDS units, plus more than $24 million a year for prevention
and treatment, Xinhua reported.
- Gao added that China's fight against AIDS still falls
short. "China is still faced with arduous tasks," he was quoted
- New HIV infections in China have been growing annually
by about 30 percent. Chinese officials and the United Nations warn that
10 million people could be infected by 2020 without more effective prevention.
- HIV in China is mostly confined to intravenous drug users
and people infected by the unsanitary blood buying.
- Ho was one of the researchers who pioneered using a "cocktail"
of drugs to treat AIDS, which changed the disease from a quick death sentence
to a sometimes manageable chronic illness. He was named Time magazine's
Man of the Year in 1996 for his work.
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