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Thursday, December 02, 1999, updated at 08:44(GMT+8)
Culture AIDS Awareness Campaign Launched in China on Int'l Aids Day

Alarmed by the vast number of people in China unaware of the AIDS/HIV virus, Chinese officials, media and medical experts launched a campaign on December 1 on International AIDS Day to alert people to the dangers of AIDS.

More than 500 government officials and experts gathered in Beijing to discuss awareness and prevention measures at the Great Hall of the People. China's first national web site on AIDS/HIV prevention was launched as well .

"What worries me most is that many Chinese know nothing about AIDS," said Professor Zhang Konglai from the Beijing Union Medical College, who called for authorities to adopt more flexible policies toward prevention of the deadly disease.

Recently, local media have tried hard to break the traditional Chinese taboo of talking about sex and sexual transmitted diseases in public.

Beijing Youth Daily, for example, reported on a 17-year old HIV carrier, while on the Internet edition of the People's Daily, there was an on-line discussion.

A HIV carrier, who wished to be identified only by his surname Song, joined the on-line discussion and said, "I feel free to express what I think and really hope that people will become more tolerant of AIDS suffers."

The Ministry of Health has drafted the Regulations on Prevention and Control of AIDS and is awaiting the approval of the State Council. The draft includes articles on protection of rights of the patients and carriers.

But it is far from an easy job to talk about sex in public without resistance in the country.

Following a disputed advertisement advocating the use of condoms shown on China Central Television (CCTV), a manufacturer's plan to distribute condoms among Beijing university students has also met with resistance.

Official statistics show that by the end of September, the number of HIV carriers reported in China was 15,088. Some local experts, however, put the figure at more than 400,000, 70 percent of them 30 years of age.

China reported its first AIDS case 14 years ago.

Compared to the global figure of 50 million AIDS patients and HIV carriers, China is still regarded as a low-infection area. However, experts warn that if effective measures are not taken, China may be devastated by the disease in the new century, with the number of Chinese HIV carriers skyrocketing to 10 million.

"China is in a grave situation and the work ahead is very difficult and complex," said Yin Dakui, a deputy health minister.

There are a large number of Chinese people who are vulnerable to AIDS/HIV, the official said, referring to tens of millions of transient people, including drug addicts, commercial blood dealers and prostitutes.

Last week, some Chinese AIDS/HIV researchers announced they will apply for official approval on carrying out China's first AIDS vaccine on human body next year.

The AIDS campaign is expected to receive positive reaction, especially in large cities where people are better educated and cultured.

Fu Yan, a nurse who has taken care of AIDS patients for years, urged people to be more aware of the disease and pay greater attention to the care of AIDS patients.

"We must act now for the sake of our offspring and the future of the nation," she added. (Xinhua)

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