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Free AIDS treatment for more foreigners

By Shan Juan (China Daily)

08:54, October 08, 2012

(Photo/Xinhua)

Specialist warns that regulations must be improved and clarified

An increasing number of foreigners are receiving free treatment for HIV/AIDS on the Chinese mainland, a health specialist said, as he warned about a lack of "clear policies" on the issue.

The mainland reported 8,366 foreign HIV/AIDS sufferers at the end of August, according to the National Center for AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Diseases Control and Prevention. More than 200 foreigners were receiving free antiviral therapy.

Growing international exchanges are seeing more foreign sufferers arrive, and stay longer, in China, Wu Zunyou, director of the center, told China Daily in an exclusive interview.

But "we have no clear polices and Chinese nationals should always be the top priority, particularly with limited funding", he said.

Most foreign sufferers were living in Yunnan, Guangdong, Shandong and Fujian provinces, as well as in Beijing, Wu said.

Most are in the 20 to 44 age bracket and more than 50 percent were infected through heterosexual sex. Intravenous drug use is the second leading transmission route.

The vast majority were diagnosed in hospital, said Zhao Yan, deputy director of the national center's AIDS treatment and care division.

Free treatment is only for Chinese citizens with case-by-case exceptions for foreigners, she said.

More than 60 percent of foreigners receiving free treatment were female, often "mail order brides" from neighboring Southeast Asian countries.

Yunnan has most cases, about 120, according to Jia Manhong, director of the AIDS division under the province's center for disease control and prevention.

"A great majority were women who had been living here for a long time and some even married locals and had children," she said, adding that many foreign women were trafficked over the border as brides.

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