China Urges Needle Exchanges, Free Condoms in Newly Aggressive AIDS Strategy
June 8, 2005
In what could be one of the boldest nationwide anti-AIDS campaigns, China's Health Ministry released proposed guidelines calling for the promotion of free condoms and needle exchanges. Under strategies previously considered taboo by the conservative communist government, the guidelines urge local officials to tailor the measures to high-risk groups.
Most striking is the recommendation to promote safer behavior among IV drug users -- a group practically ignored in the past -- by combining methadone treatment with needle exchanges. "Under the national health system's launching of a people's war against drugs, drug eradication, AIDS prevention, and daily tasks must be closely joined," said a copy of the guidelines posted on the ministry's Web site. Last month, China launched a new national anti-drugs campaign.
The guidelines say sex workers should be encouraged to require customers to use condoms and to seek reproductive health services and STD treatment. People infected with STDs are to be provided with free condoms, they said. Disease prevention education should target areas where gay men gather, along with work sites and areas where migrant workers live, they added.
Tuesday at a news conference in Beijing, U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Randall Tobias praised China's aggressive approach. "I'm very encouraged by the commitment that the senior leadership of the government has made," said Tobias. But he warned that massive challenges still exist in rural China, where HIV has spread through unsanitary blood buying schemes.
While at the press conference, Tobias and Chinese actor and AIDS activist Pu Cunxin rolled up their sleeves and took a blood test in front of photographers to demonstrate the safety of AIDS testing.
06.07.05; Christopher Bodeen
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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.