Last updated at: (Beijing Time) Monday, December 02, 2002

China Warned of 12 Million HIV Carriers in 8 Years if no Measures Taken

Taking the AIDS-related losses from the young work force into consideration, China's gross domestic product could be reduced by 40 billion yuan (4.8 billion dollars) due to 10 years of the AIDS epidemic.


Beijing Marks World AIDS Day
Taking the AIDS-related losses from the young work force into consideration, China's gross domestic product could be reduced by 40 billion yuan (4.8 billion dollars) due to 10 years of the AIDS epidemic.

Yuan said once HIV/AIDS was spreading among the general public, its impact on the macro-economy and the whole society would be "too ghastly to contemplate," though there were few signs of that in China at present.

But some people are already feeling the epidemic's impact.

The study found most people living with HIV/AIDS, as well as their families, had lost their jobs and on reduced incomes could not afford huge treatment fees.

Activity on AIDS Awareness on the 15th World AIDS Day
The life of a person who contracts HIV might be changed forever- spending on clothing and food is largely reduced, and entertainment or education is halted in order to pay medical bills.

HIV carriers also suffered psychologically more than patients of other diseases due to the extraordinary fear, stigma, isolation, discrimination and ostracism from others, the study found.

AIDS orphans and the elderly without the support of children who had died of AIDS would soon emerge as a new problem in China, affecting their right to education and medical care, and ability to sustain their future lives, the study showed.

Health departments have also begun to be pressured to provide services and professional training as more AIDS patients appear.

The research team has proposed several major strategies to China's policy-makers, such as a sharp increase in investment in educational and preventive campaigns.

They estimate that between 720 million yuan and 1.44 billion yuan is needed for full-scale intervention work, far larger than the current investment by the central and local governments.

"We must realize that if we are reluctant to invest in prevention now, we'll have to invest much, much more in future on patients' treatment," Yuan said.

If the government lets the disease spread without any measures to control it, there will be 12 million Chinese infected by HIV, the AIDS virus, eight years from now.

On the other hand, the number of HIV-infected people could be held around 2.2 million by 2010 if timely and comprehensive steps are taken to control the epidemic, according to the study by a team of Chinese and international researchers.

Yuan Jianhua, the team leader and a researcher at the Beijing Institute of Information and Control, described the latter scenario as rather optimistic but achievable if the country acts now in broad-based way.

"We still have the chance to prevent a large-scale epidemic of HIV/AIDS at present," he said. "But it may be the last chance."

Released on World AIDS Day on Sunday, the study again sounded an alarm bell for China, which has reported 1 million HIV carriers at present and is widely believed to be on the brink of an explosive situation.

Citing experts' estimates, the country's vice health minister Ma Xiaowei also acknowledged that the rate of HIV infection might top 10 million by 2010 if no active and effective measures were taken.

If so, the consequences could be devastating across the board --to individuals, families, health departments, and even the macro-economy of the country, suggested the study which looked at the possible impact of the HIV/AIDS epidemic on China's social and economic development.

Under the 12-million scenario, China would have 2.15 million AIDS patients and 260,000 AIDS orphans by 2010, with total medical expenses from HIV/AIDS rocketing to 6 billion yuan (725 million US dollars), from 215 million yuan (26 million dollars) in 2001.

The researchers also suggested practical steps to help high-risk groups avoid spreading HIV, such as promoting the use of condoms and clean needles.

They urged the government to consider a support system for HIV carriers and AIDS patients, with further lowering of AIDS drugs prices and examination fees, and subsidies for hard up patients.

Responding to calls both from the home and international community, China has pledged to work more actively to address the HIV/AIDS problem,

A month-long campaign was launched nationwide on Sunday to prompt the country's 210 million young people to carry out AIDS-related educational activities, harnessing their passion and energy.

"We should propose, spread and implement the 'Red Ribbon spirit', which is about understanding, care and equality," said a proposal which was read to some 800 college and high school students in a gathering at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, the seat of the national legislature where the government's most important political ceremonies are held.

The students were encouraged to create a non-discriminatory climate with respect and friendliness for those people living with HIV/AIDS.

Various activities, such as question-and-answer sessions, symposiums, a symbolic marathon, and street events to hand out leaflets about AIDS, were held simultaneously in a dozen Chinese cities.

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