WHO applauds China's progress on HIV/AIDS control

Updated: 2014-12-02 09:30


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BEIJING -- The World Health Organization (WHO) China Office on Monday issued an announcement praising China's progress on HIV and AIDS control.

"Progressive and rapid actions in China have helped lessen the infection rate of HIV, the virus that can lead to AIDS," said Dr. Bernhard Schwartlander, the World Health Organization (WHO) Representative in China.

"The HIV epidemic in China was driven initially by injecting drug use. China's response was to set up a massive national network of needle exchanges and methadone centers," Schwartlander said. "There are now 763 clinics across the country. China is a world leader in this. The result is a remarkable reduction of HIV prevalence among people who inject drugs."

"I am heartened by the incredible progress China has made since the first outbreaks of AIDS. Compared to my early days, China is now much better placed to prevent HIV infection, and doing better at caring for those living with HIV," Schwartlander said. "Yet as we recognize World AIDS Day, I know there is much more China needs to do."

HIV transmission rates in the children of HIV-positive mothers have also decreased significantly in China. The number of sites providing services to HIV-positive pregnant women has tripled from around 500 in 2009 to more than 1,500 today - drastically reducing the rate of HIV infection among children born to HIV-positive mothers, from 35 percent in 2009 to 7 percent in 2012.

"We have seen remarkable progress in some areas, but we cannot stop now," said Dr. Schwartlander, noting that there are still many challenges that China faces in preventing new infections, and in ensuring equitable access to healthcare and treatment for all who need it.

"China can accelerate action on several fronts. First, a stronger push on prevention -- for instance, promoting safer sex through 100 percent condom use. Second, make rapid HIV testing available at the community-level, particularly for populations who are stigmatized and discriminated against -- sex workers, men who have sex with men, and drug users," said Dr. Schwartlander.

"And third, for those people who are living with HIV, we need to make antiretroviral treatment available sooner, and in a simpler form using fixed dose combinations -- one pill per day. Virtually all countries in Africa, including some of the poorest nations in the world, base their treatment programs on these simple and highly effective fixed dose combinations. This increases uptake, keeps people healthy and productive, and reduces the number of new infections. China is really lagging behind here, " Dr. Schwartlander said.

"The goal is clear: ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030. There are still challenges in China and every other country in the world. However, we have the tools, and with China's track record in innovation and pragmatism, I have no doubt that we can achieve this goal," Dr. Schwartlander concluded.