Chinese Premier Appears on TV Visiting With AIDS Patients; First Senior Chinese Official to Publicly Address AIDS Epidemic
December 2, 2003
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao on Monday appeared on Chinese state television greeting AIDS patients and appealing to the country to treat HIV-positive people with "care and love," marking the first time a senior Chinese leader publicly addressed the country's HIV/AIDS epidemic, the Washington Post reports (Pan, Washington Post, 12/2). The visit, which coincided with World AIDS Day, also marked the first time a top Chinese government official had publicly met with an HIV-positive person, the New York Times reports (Yardley, New York Times, 12/2). Wen, who was accompanied by Vice Premier Wu Yi, wore a red ribbon and pledged to make HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment a high priority, urging government officials at all levels to act with a "spirit of high responsibility to the people" and calling for a "struggle with full confidence against the disease." AIDS advocates praised Wen's remarks but said that continued leadership was necessary to force the government to confront the epidemic, according to the Post. "Wen's public appearance is significant, but we need to see what actions follow," Wan Yanhai, a former Health Ministry official who last year was detained by state security officials for distributing a government report about China's AIDS epidemic, said, adding, "The leadership needs to do more than visit AIDS patients in the hospitals. It needs to support their activities and support AIDS activists" (Washington Post, 12/2). "The symbolic value is terrific. It sends a clear signal to other parts of government and different ministries," a foreign AIDS expert, said, adding, "They look at the political winds and see how to act and behave."
Moves Signal "Desperately Needed Switch," Editorial Says
Wen's visit with AIDS patients on Monday and the Chinese government's decision to distribute antiretroviral drugs signals a "desperately needed switch" from the government's "unconscionable denials in the face of spreading AIDS problems," a Baltimore Sun editorial says. Although the "unprecedented, highly symbolic visit" could be a sign that the government "may finally be getting serious" about AIDS, "[t]he question remains" if its still "too little and too late to prevent the disease from infecting 10 million to 20 million Chinese by 2020 -- a question in which the whole world has a big stake," the editorial says. The country is "capable of an effective public health campaign once it summons the will," the editorial says, adding that developed countries should provide "aid and expertise." The editorial concludes that "first and foremost, Beijing must launch a sweeping war on AIDS, backed by a far greater commitment of resources" (Baltimore Sun, 12/2).
Additional information on World AIDS Day -- including webcasts; access to studies and key facts; and links to resources and organizations around the world -- can be found online on kaisernetwork.org.
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This article was provided by Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. It is a part of the publication Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report. Visit the Kaiser Family Foundation's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.