Relaymedia

China Highlights Dangers on World AIDS Day

Beijing -- China, which announced a big jump in AIDS and HIV cases last week, marked World Aids Day Friday by having schoolgirls decorate classrooms with red ribbons while taxi drivers distributed inf
( [email protected] ) Dec 01, 2006 11:50 AM EST

Beijing -- China, which announced a big jump in AIDS and HIV cases last week, marked World Aids Day Friday by having schoolgirls decorate classrooms with red ribbons while taxi drivers distributed information on fighting the disease.

About 5,000 taxi drivers in Beijing began giving their passengers angel-shaped cards with information on prevention, medical contacts and an appeal to "oppose discrimination" against people with HIV. The campaign will continue for the first 10 days of December.

China's Health Ministry said last week that the number of reported HIV and AIDS cases rose by almost 30 percent to 183,733 in the first 10 months of this year, from 144,089 cases at the end of last year. Intravenous drug use was the biggest source of infection, the ministry said.

Both the government and the World Health Organization estimate 650,000 people in China were living with HIV at the end of last year.

The government and international bodies have staged several events to promote AIDS awareness, with the government announcing a five-year plan to promote the use of condoms among gay people, and the United Nations Development Program honoring AIDS Care China with its Red Ribbon Award. The non-government organization was praised for its community-based approach to helping people living with AIDS or HIV.

"The Red Ribbon Award not only recognizes this outstanding group, but it also recognizes the crucial role communities can play ... with local authorities at a crucial time for the HIV/AIDS epidemic in China," said Khalid Malik, the UNDP representative in China.

HIV gained a foothold in China largely due to tainted blood transfusions in hospitals and schemes to buy blood plasma, where it was collected using unsanitary means.

Wang Weijun has received a third of the 360,000 yuan (US$45,900) awarded to him by a court in Hebei province five years ago, after his pregnant wife contracted HIV through a blood transfusion at a local hospital. She later died of AIDS, leaving Wang to care for their daughter, who has HIV.

Wang, who makes 1,000 yuan (US$127; euro96.21) a month selling popcorn on the streets, said he felt he had accomplished something when he won the court case, "that I had found justice for my dead wife and my daughter."

"As it turns out, the road continues to be really rough," he said.

Wang's daughter, now 9, gets free medication from the Clinton Foundation, set up by former US President Bill Clinton.

In recent years, Chinese leaders have been confronting the disease more openly and promising anonymous testing, free treatment for the poor and a ban on discrimination against people with HIV.