UNAIDS Executive Director commends the Government of China for its leadership in the HIV response

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UNAIDS Executive Director commends the Government of China for its leadership in the HIV response

08 July 2011

(from left) Executive Director of UNAIDS Michel Sidibé with China's Health Minister Dr Chen Zhu.

In an official meeting today in Beijing with Dr Chen Zhu, China’s Minister of Health, UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé praised China’s commitment and leadership in the national response to HIV. Mr Sidibé commended the Government of China for its high-level participation in the recent UN General Assembly High Level Meeting on AIDS and for its strong support of Getting to Zero—a UNAIDS strategy that calls for zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths worldwide.

Over the past decade, China’s AIDS response has achieved significant results. Between 2003 and 2010, the number of people receiving antiretroviral treatment in China increased from about zero to more than 86 000, representing more than 40% coverage. Nearly 8000 clinics throughout the country now offer voluntary HIV testing and counselling free of charge. 

In recent years, China has also put in place HIV programmes for populations at higher risk of HIV infection, such as sex workers and people who inject drugs. Following the roll out of a major methadone maintenance therapy programme in 2004, 700 clinics are providing HIV treatment and prevention services nation-wide to nearly 300 000 people.

An urgent need for city-based approaches

During his meeting with Dr Chen, Mr Sidibé noted with concern the alarming growth of China’s HIV epidemic among men who have sex with men (MSM), particularly in urban areas. Mr Sidibé recommended that China treat the development and implementation of a national MSM strategy as a top priority in its AIDS response.

To ensure a successful national response to HIV, urgent action is needed in metropolitan areas

Michel Sidibé, UNAIDS Executive Director

According to government figures, an estimated one in three new HIV infections in the country are among men who have sex with men, and a majority of these infections occur in cities. Approximately 5% of MSM in China are living with HIV—88 times higher than the national HIV prevalence of 0.057%. In many Chinese cities, more than 10% of the MSM population is living with HIV.

“To ensure a successful national response to HIV, urgent action is needed in metropolitan areas,” said Mr Sidibé, who is on a five-day official visit to China. “Providing HIV services for men who have sex with men must be at the heart of China’s city-based response to the epidemic,” he added.

In his meeting with Dr Chen, Mr Sidibé called on the Chinese government to roll out city-wide MSM action plans in Chinese mega-cities with populations exceeding 10 million by the end of 2012.

Community participation critical to an effective HIV response

The importance of community participation was a key theme during the Executive Director’s meeting later in the day with Mr Dou Yupei, China’s Vice Minister of Civil Affairs.Many community-based organizations are already operating in China’s cities and achieving important results in local epidemics. However, to participate effectively and sustainably in the AIDS response, they must be allowed to register legally and gain access to funding.

In his meeting with the Vice Minister of Civil Affairs, the UNAIDS Executive Director noted the important guidance recently issued by China’s State Council, which called on relevant departments to facilitate the legal registration of social organizations—an important step forward for China’s HIV response.

Mr Sidibé also commended the actions taken by the Ministry to expand and increase the scope of social welfare benefit payments for children impacted by the AIDS epidemic—actions, he said, that demonstrate the commitment of the Chinese government to ensuring the well-being of people affected by HIV and AIDS.