China Issues First Guidelines on HIV

Monday, February 13th 2006, 10:34 am
By: News On 6

BEIJING (AP) _ China issued its first official regulations on how to prevent and control the spread of the AIDS virus Sunday, mandating free testing and medication for the country's poor.

The statute issued by the State Council, China's cabinet, protects HIV carriers and AIDS patients from discrimination and criminalizes intentionally spreading the disease, the official Xinhua News Agency said.

The law, which takes effect March 1, holds local governments responsible for providing free medication to impoverished patients. Local governments also must offer free consultations and treatment to infected pregnant women, Xinhua said.

The Joint U.N. Program on HIV/AIDS, or UNAIDS, had estimated that up to 10 million people in China could be infected by 2010 without more aggressive prevention measures.

That scenario appears increasingly unlikely. The Chinese government announced last month there were an estimated 650,000 people living with the HIV virus in China, including 75,000 with full-blown AIDS.

China had estimated two years earlier that it had 840,000 HIV-positive people, including 84,000 with AIDS.

International health officials attributed the drop to better data collection methods, although some AIDS advocates were skeptical of the figures, saying they underestimated China's problems.

Both groups warned that the situation remained critical, saying the virus in China had begun to spread quickly in the general population, with about 200 new infections a day.

Most of the new cases were in intravenous drug users or sex workers and their clients. But there are also a growing number of infected pregnant mothers and spouses of the clients of sex workers.

The new regulation protects the rights and privacy of AIDS patients and HIV carriers, as well as their relatives, Xinhua said.

Their rights of marriage, employment, medical care and education are guaranteed, Xinhua said.

The guidelines also hold people with HIV responsible for telling spouses, sexual partners and doctors about their infection. Anyone intentionally infecting others would be punished, Xinhua said.

Public health advocates have criticized Chinese authorities for being slow to fight the spread of AIDS through such routes as unhygienic blood transfusions. The situation is generally acknowledged to have been improving in recent years.