China To Establish National HIV/AIDS Database; Provinces To Provide Free HIV Testing
China plans to establish a national database of people living with HIV/AIDS in the country in order to "get a better grip" on the epidemic, the Ministry of Health announced on Sunday, AFP/Yahoo! News reports. Although 840,000 HIV-positive people are estimated by the government to be living in the country, the government has "precise knowledge" of only a "small percentage" of those patients, according to AFP/Yahoo! News. Only 12.7% of HIV-positive people are registered with health authorities, and disease control centers had detailed records on 4.2% of patients, according to Xinhua News Agency. A draft of the country's first HIV/AIDS prevention and control regulations also will be completed soon and sent to the State Council in May. The regulations will primarily outline the rights and responsibilities of regional governments and citizens in controlling the spread of the disease. According to Vice Minister of Health Wang Longde, every province in the country will provide free and voluntary HIV tests this year (AFP/Yahoo! News, 3/20). The eastern province of Jiangsu already has begun offering HIV tests to people who sold their blood since 1990, according to the province's disease control center (Xinhua News Agency, 3/21). Unsafe blood collection procedures in the early and mid-1990s facilitated HIV infection among many rural Chinese farmers. The program paid farmers for their blood and sold it at state hospitals and private clinics (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 10/14/04). Jiangsu province also is providing tests for the spouses and children of HIV-positive people who participated in the unsafe blood collection procedures (Xinhua News Agency, 3/21).
Government Urges NGOs, Businesses To Fight HIV/AIDS
In related news, Chinese health officials on Friday in Beijing at a summit on business and HIV/AIDS in China urged nongovernmental organizations and companies in the country to increase their role in the fight against the disease (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 3/18). Vice Premier and Minister of Health Wu Yi said that the fight against HIV/AIDS cannot be "won by the government alone" and that businesses should help their employees to receive testing and treatment, according to the New York Times. "I hope our entrepreneurs, while they are developing their businesses, would also participate broadly in public welfare," Wu said, adding, "AIDS prevention is an important responsibility of the Chinese government and is also a responsibility that must be shared by society" (Kahn, New York Times, 3/18). "We've understood deeply that in HIV/AIDS prevention, there are certain things that the government is not able to do," Wang said, adding, "Drug addicts, sex workers and homosexuals are reluctant to talk to government workers. Therefore, we must encourage NGOs to participate" (Pottinger, Wall Street Journal, 3/21).
Nine Companies Join Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS
Nine Chinese companies last week also announced that they have joined the Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS, Singapore's Straits Times reports. According to GBC Executive Director Trevor Neilson, five to 10 additional companies likely will join the coalition "soon," the Straits Times reports. "There is tremendous momentum. Many companies told us when we began work a year ago that they were just waiting for a clear sign from the central government to get involved," Neilson said (Chua, Straits Times, 3/19). However, he added that "most" Chinese companies still see the epidemic as the "government's problems, not their own," according to the PTI/New Kerala. "It's pretty similar to the way companies in developed countries felt in the early days of the disease," Neilson said (PTI/New Kerala, 3/19).