China Pledges to Redouble Anti-AIDS Fight

SHANGHAI, Aug. 12 (UPI) — China pledged to step up efforts to fight AIDS, the country’s No. 1 infectious disease killer, the health ministry said Thursday.

China sees prevention of AIDS and the human immunodeficiency virus that causes it as a key priority that will be tackled by China’s government and all of society with renewed force, Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping told U.N. anti-AIDS chief Michel Sidibe.

Beijing “will combine the prevention and containment of HIV/AIDS with reform of the medical and healthcare system to improve the people’s health by strengthening the public healthcare service,” the health ministry quoted Xi as telling Sidibe, executive director of the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS.

Much of the fast spread of HIV in China is through intravenous drug use and prostitution, state health officials say.

Officials fear a serious outbreak in a country as large as China could significantly hurt the economies of both China and the world as a whole.

Sidibe commended China for scaling up methadone maintenance treatment and needle-exchange programs in large cities, which he said was critical to reversing the HIV epidemic among injecting drug users.

He also encouraged more than 100 Chinese health sector leaders and practitioners meeting in Shanghai to promote condom use, which he said was shown in Bangkok to have sharply reduced HIV among the city’s brothel-based sex workers.

Sidibe challenged China’s cities to be at the forefront of local AIDS responses, especially for people at high risk of HIV infection, including men who have sex with men and migrant workers.

He called on Shanghai to unite and mobilize the world’s mega-cities so they can become HIV-free by 2015.

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