Feature story

Partnership central to China’s AIDS response

16 July 2007

UNAIDS Executive Director, Dr Peter Piot reviews
the flow chart for diagnosis of HIV in the health
clinic of Nandawu village in Shangcai county in
Henan province together with health clinic staff.

Leadership, commitment and ensuring the involvement of a wide range of partners in the AIDS response– including people living with HIV –have been underlined as critical to progress on AIDS in China, during a week-long UNAIDS mission to the country (15 – 20 July).

Heading the mission, UNAIDS Executive Director Peter Piot stressed the need for all those working on AIDS to be fully involved in the development and implementation of the China’s response. He also highlighted the need for focused HIV prevention programmes to reach the people most at risk and the continued need to reduce AIDS-related stigma and discrimination in the country.

The mission travelled through Henan, one of the provinces most affected by AIDS – visiting Shangcai county and the provincial capital Zhengzhou. According to Chinese government estimates, some 66,000 people are thought to be living with HIV in the province.

Key discussions with provincial leaders and visits to a health clinic, a primary school, a centre for AIDS orphans and two households of people living with HIV gave insight into progresses being made and ongoing challenges faced.

Henan has a comprehensive HIV prevention, treatment, care and support system with over $100 million invested by the provincial government over the last 4 years. Free antiretroviral treatment and treatment for opportunistic infections is available in hundreds of villages and towns across the province. During the mission, healthcare workers in the province stressed the importance of ensuring second line treatment is made available and addressing the potential reality of emergence of drug resistance. They also underlined the need for expanded availability of opportunistic infection treatment.

“There are 129 free drugs for treatment of opportunistic infections. But we still hope that some more drugs, such as drugs for hypertension treatment will become free of charge,” a member of the staff told UNAIDS at the health clinic in Nanawu village.

Despite increased attention to AIDS in the province, the involvement of non-governmental, community based organizations and people living with HIV within the response has been rather limited. Addressing this issue, the UNAIDS Executive Director held special discussions with a group of civil society representatives – including representatives of media, non-governmental organizations and people living with HIV to explore ways of strengthening their active involvement in the response to AIDS in Henan. Coordinated action and the issue of stigma and discrimination were high on the agenda, with participants underlining that some progress has been seen on reducing AIDS-related discrimination but that more was needed to ensure civil society and people living with HIV can have the opportunity and space to be active within the response. “There is still a definite need for improvement,” said one non-governmental organization representative.

UNAIDS Executive Director, Dr Peter Piot observes
a boy using a computer at the Red Ribbon Care
Centre for AIDS orphans of Nandawu village in
Shangcai county, Henan province. Local staff and
Dr. Ma Jiangzhou, Director of the Henan Province
Health Bureau are also present.

Visiting households of people living with HIV, Dr Piot emphasized the critical role individuals have to play in ensuring an effective response to AIDS. “People living with HIV should be at the very centre of the response. Your voices must be heard,” he said, urging them to participate in HIV prevention and anti-discrimination campaign s and reach out to others in the community.

Young people, their role in the response and the need to raise their awareness on AIDS issues was also highlighted through discussions at the Nandawu Village primary school and the Red Ribbon Care Center for AIDS Orphans.

Joining the children in the Red Ribbon Centre in their daily sporting activities, Dr Piot stressed the critical role of the school system in increasing AIDS prevention, anti-discrimination and life skills education as well as vocational training. He also called for provincial and educational leaders to give more attention to children and young people on AIDS, as they are among the most vulnerable to HIV infection.

Following the Henan mission, Dr Piot travelled on to the Chinese capital Beijing. Over the next days he will meet with Chinese government officials and hold talks with Chinese AIDS experts and activists.


More information on China
Visit the UNAIDS China web site

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