HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html China Urges Needle Exchanges to Fight Aids
Pubdate: Tue, 07 Jun 2005
Source: San Jose Mercury News (CA)
Copyright: 2005 San Jose Mercury News
Author: Christopher Bodeen
Bookmark: (Needle Exchange)


SHANGHAI, China (AP) -- In an aggressive new anti-AIDS push, China's Health 
Ministry is urging the promotion of free condoms and needle exchanges - 
strategies previously considered taboo by the conservative communist 

The proposed guidelines urge local governments to tailor those measures to 
high-risk groups in one of the boldest nationwide campaigns yet against the 

The most striking proposal calls for combining methadone treatment with 
needle exchanges to promote safe behavior among drug users - a group almost 
completely ignored in the past.

"Under the national health system's launching of a people's war against 
drugs, drug eradication, AIDS prevention, and daily tasks must be closely 
joined," said a copy of the guidelines posted on the Health Ministry's Web 

China says it has 840,000 people infected with HIV, the virus that causes 
AIDS, and 80,000 have the full-blown disease. But health experts say the 
true figures are much higher and warn that China could have 10 million 
infected by 2010 unless stronger measures are taken.

The government only recently became open about its AIDS epidemic after 
years of denying it was a problem, although independent activists are still 
frequently detained and harassed.

China launched a new national anti-drug campaign last month. Its aggressive 
new approach on AIDS was praised Tuesday by Randall Tobias, the U.S. global 
AIDS coordinator.

"I'm very encouraged by the commitment that the senior leadership of the 
government has made," Tobias said at a news conference in Beijing.

He warned, however, of massive challenges in the countryside, where AIDS 
has often spread through unsanitary blood-buying schemes.

"It will be a very long journey," Tobias said.

Washington is providing China with $35 million for AIDS from 2004-08.

At the news conference, Tobias and actor and anti-AIDS spokesman Pu Cunxin 
rolled up their sleeves and took a blood test to demonstrate its safety.

Most AIDS victims are thought to have become infected through sharing 
needles during intravenous drug use. Widespread prostitution is also a 
chief cause of infection, one that experts warn could spread the virus into 
the wider population.

The guidelines say prostitutes should be encouraged to require customers to 
use condoms, seek reproductive health services, and be treated for venereal 
disease. People infected with sexually transmitted diseases are to be given 
free condoms, they say.

They also call for disease prevention education to be carried out at places 
where gay men gather, as well as at job sites and other areas where migrant 
workers live.
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