While Battling SARS, China Neglects AIDS
May 8, 2003
During the past two weeks, China's Communist Party has made a stunning display of public accountability on SARS. The government fired and disciplined officials for their mishandling of SARS, committed $240 million to treating poor patients, mobilized state media to inform the public, and erected a 1,000-bed hospital on a Beijing cornfield in little more than a week. But while as many as 1 million poor farmers are infected with HIV in Henan province and another million are infected elsewhere, there has never been such concerted action on AIDS.Adapted from:
"AIDS broke out in the very poor areas, and people there have no power," said Hu Jia, an activist with the Beijing nongovernmental AIDS organization Aizhi Action Project. "But SARS broke out in Beijing, Hong Kong and Guandong [province], where the economies are the most developed and are closely connected to the world."
Shangcai County has yet to see a confirmed SARS case, but its response has been swift. The county government has set aside $100,000, a senior health official said, helping Shangcai County Hospital purchase four respirators for $60,000. "I have never heard Shangcai spend so much money in such a short period of time to fight AIDS," said Hu. "[That] is not a small amount to the area. The amount would pay for 10,000 AIDS patients' basic drugs for a month."
Government officials acknowledge 14,400 HIV cases in Shangcai; a Beijing organization, however, found more than 34,000 cases, according to an account published in January in the Chinese newspaper Legal Service Times. A Shangcai official said 2,450 AIDS patients are receiving a drug cocktail from the state Ministry of Health. But the money spent by the county last year -- about $350,000 -- amounts to less than a dollar per HIV-infected resident per month, given the estimate of 34,000 cases.
One of the hardest-hit villages is Chenglao. Like others in Chenglao, the Li family receives no free drugs from the government and cannot afford local hospitals. Those who have asked for better treatment in visits to government in the provincial capital of Zhengzhou or in Beijing have been arrested or sent back, told never to return.
05.04.03; Gady A. Epstein
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.