Feature story

Michel Sidibé commends China’s progress in AIDS response

24 November 2009

UNAIDS Executive Director, Michel Sidibé in Shanghai, China on 23 November 2009. Credit: UNAIDS

UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé, during his visit to China, commended the People’s Republic of China on rises in domestic spending for HIV prevention and care in spite of a global financial crisis where other countries are weighing the risks of making cuts.

Speaking during the opening of the Fifth Conference for the International Cooperation Programme on AIDS in Shanghai, Mr Sidibé congratulated the country, saying, “China’s progress can invigorate an AIDS response that teaches and inspires the world.”

The world eagerly anticipates China’s enhanced role in global governance—and its leadership in the global response to AIDS.

Michel Sidibé, UNAIDS Executive Director

Also on the panel with Mr Sidibé were China’s Health Minister, Dr Chen Zhu; Mayor of Shanghai, Han Zheng; Vice Director of the Department of International Cooperation, Dr Ren Minghui; Dr Wu Zunyou from the National Centre for HIV/AIDS Control and Prevention (China) and UNFPA's Dr Bernard Coquelin.

Earlier during his visit Mr Sidibé held a bilateral meeting with Health Minister Dr Chen Zhu and acknowledged the country’s progress on the AIDS response.

While HIV prevalence in China is estimated to be less than 0.1 per cent of the total population, the epidemic continues to grow – the majority of new infections are related to injecting drug use and sexual transmission.

China’s senior leaders, including President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao, have over the years shown commitment towards addressing the AIDS epidemic. The national budget for HIV prevention and care rose from RMB 390 million (US$48.75 million) in 2003 to RMB 983 million (US$144.13 million) in 2008. The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria has recently approved a disbursement of US$ 500 million to China to scale up its programmes for HIV prevention, treatment and care.

Mr Sidibé added, “The world eagerly anticipates China’s enhanced role in global governance—and its leadership in the global response to AIDS.”  It has accomplished some of the lowest child and maternal death rates and lowest prevalence of HIV, TB and malaria.

Its “Four Frees and One Care” policy provides free voluntary counselling and testing, free antiretroviral treatment, free services to prevent mother-to-child transmission, free schooling for children orphaned by AIDS, and care for people with HIV in 127 sites nationwide.

Also, China now has more drug replacement clinics and needle social marketing programmes than any other country in Asia.

Speaking about China’s national AIDS programme, Mr Sidibé noted, “This scale of transformation gives me and many others hope that China can make breathtaking strides in other areas of universal access, if the will is there. And I believe it is.”

Mr Sidibé called for human rights, equity and the involvement of the civil society and affected communities in all aspects of the AIDS response.
Earlier in the day Mr Sidibé launched two publications UNAIDS Outlook 2010 and 2009 AIDS Epidemic Update at a press conference. Dr Chen Zhu, Chinese Minister of Health; Dr Hiroki Nakatani, Assistant Director General, AIDS, TB, Malaria and Neglected Tropical Diseases, WHO; and Ms Zhao Chunki, Social worker also participated in the press conference which was webcast live from Shanghai.
The Executive Director plans to meet with China’s Vice Premier, Mr Li Keqiang, as well as launch the highlights of the China Stigma Index that documents the stigma and discrimination experienced by people living with HIV in China.

Later in the week, Mr Sidibé’s will also participate in the launch of two campaign materials on awareness about AIDS: a poster and a public service announcement featuring Chinese basketball star Yao Ming and a group of people living with HIV.