HIV/AIDS Could Bring Social Instability, Jeopardize Economic Growth in China, Piot Says
November 7, 2003
China's growing HIV/AIDS epidemic could trigger social instability and jeopardize the country's economic growth unless its leaders begin a "serious effort to tackle" the disease soon, UNAIDS Executive Director Peter Piot said Wednesday at a workshop in Beijing, China, on HIV/AIDS and business in Africa and Asia, Toronto's Globe and Mail reports. The workshop for the first time brought together Chinese business and government officials to discuss the epidemic. Piot said that although he has warned Chinese government officials that the epidemic could lead to "social instability and political paralysis," the "highest-ranking" leaders have not made "any strong statements" on the issue and have allowed business leaders and local officials to ignore the crisis, according to the Global and Mail. "The first thing we have to do is break the silence about AIDS," Piot said, adding that a lot of work needs to be done in China's provinces. According to Piot, China lacks statistics on the number of cases in each province because of its "deteriorating" public health system, the Globe and Mail reports. John Ruggie, a professor of international affairs at Harvard University, said that the HIV/AIDS epidemic in China has already reached the same level as the epidemic in Southern Africa in 1990 (York, Globe and Mail, 11/6). "In Africa, governments and businesses are looking back at what they should and could have done -- in China, there is still time to avert the worst-case scenario," Ruggie said (UNAIDS release, 11/5).
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