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China's New AIDS Policy?
To The Center
December 30, 2007

by SusieK

It is not being called an epidemic yet, but China is admitting there is a problem and the government is taking new steps in its labyrinthine dealing with HIV.

HIV/AIDS has recently been acknowledged as a problem in mainland China, especially in the rural provinces, where medical care is not as readily available as in one of the larger metropolitan cities. Reuters reports that the Chinese government has decided to lift a ban on persons who are HIV-positive from entering China. New restrictions, however, will force anyone who has left China for one year or more and wishes to return, to undergo HIV-testing.

The head of the Beijing Municipal Health Bureau, Jin Dapeng, commented how a big challenge facing China now is how to deal with the "high-risk" people spreading the disease to the general populace. A part of facing this challenge will be working to help the rural dwellers to have better access to healthcase. Dapeng lamented China's lack of a cohesive policy of dealing with the deadly disease, but his words appeared hopeful: "Beijing has yet to work out a specific policy on AIDS prevention among migrants. It will be a priority in our future work."

In China, sex and needle-sharing are still the most frequent ways in which the disease is spread. Humanitarians won a battle in China recently, however, as Chinese President Hu Jintao has not only started to acknowledge the AIDS victims, but recently visited some in a hospital. According to Reuters, the city of Beijing alone registered 973 new infections this year, well up from last year.

China has begun a new prevention campaign, including safe sex advertisements shown on buses, the internet, planes, and some television stations. Beijing hotels have recently begun to stock their rooms with condoms. However, the catch is that the hoteliers are not required to 'make a loss,' and so may charge (up to their discretion) per condom.

China, which will be hosting the 2008 Olympics, has come under fire for its human rights record. The move to take away the law banning HIV-positive people from coming to China may be a step in the response to outside calls for change. The U.N. estimates that there are about 650,000 - 700,000 HIV/AIDS cases in China. It is estimated that about 50,000 new infections occurred in China in 2007, compared to 70,000 in 2005, reports Reuters.

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