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Spotlight Series: HIV Stigma and Discrimination
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International News

Crackdown on Drugs Hurts China AIDS Fight: Report

December 11, 2008

On Tuesday, Human Rights Watch (HRW) warned that China's "pragmatic" and "bold" approach to combating HIV/AIDS is at odds with its punitive treatment of drug users.

Drug injection is one of the main HIV transmission routes in the country, according to the HRW report, causing the government to place a greater focus on drug addiction. Yet, "drug users in rehabilitation centers are treated as prisoners, not patients, and subject to abusive and inhumane conditions of confinement," HRW said.

The report was based on interviews with 19 drug users and 20 officials in the summer of 2007 in the border region of Guangxi, where nearly all HIV/AIDS cases are linked to drug use. HRW found regional variations in how AIDS and drug addiction are approached.

Approximately 1.08 million Chinese were registered drug addicts as of October, up from 785,000 in 2005, the state-owned Xinhua News Agency said Friday, citing the Ministry of Public Security. China plans to build 45 non-compulsory drug treatment centers with a more "friendly environment," the ministry said. In the past, China has had only compulsory centers.

The report said drug users are routinely detained by police, who sometimes wait outside the country's 500 methadone clinics. "Detox" centers and re-education through labor programs are "prison-like," with abusive guards, nominal medical treatment, and work without pay, said HRW.

Furthermore, HIV testing is rarely confidential, making people reluctant to get tested until they are already sick, the report said. Drug users who undergo mandatory testing in detention are not informed of the results, it added.

Back to other news for December 2008

Adapted from:
12.09.2008; Lucy Hornby

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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.
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