China must prevent HIV's spread, top UN anti-AIDS official tells Beijing forum

13 November 2001

Addressing a national conference in China on sexually transmitted diseases (STD), the Executive Director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) today said the country must act to avert a widespread epidemic before the end of the decade.

Addressing a national conference in China on sexually transmitted diseases (STD), the Executive Director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) today said the country must act to avert a widespread epidemic before the end of the decade.

"HIV is beginning to spread from specific groups in China to the general population," said Dr. Peter Piot in a speech to China's first National AIDS/STD Conference.

"There is clear evidence that HIV is beginning to spread in the general population so the numbers of new infections will rise rapidly unless immediate action is taken," warned Dr. Piot. "It is now imperative that effective interventions and wide-ranging educational campaigns for the public are available nationwide," he added.

In China, HIV had in the past been transmitted mostly by injecting drug users sharing contaminated needles and paid blood donors engaged in unsafe practices, but UNAIDS said today that the virus was increasingly spreading through sexual intercourse - both heterosexual and homosexual.

The country's health ministry estimates that about 600,000 Chinese were living with HIV/AIDS in 2000. Given the recently observed rises in reported HIV infections and infection rates in several parts of the country, the total number of people living with HIV/AIDS in China could well exceed 1 million by the end of this year, UNAIDS said.

Meanwhile in Brussels, representatives of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from across the globe gathered to discuss the new Global Fund to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, first proposed by Secretary-General Kofi Annan and later endorsed by the UN General Assembly. Concluding a two-day meeting today, participants agreed that the Fund's activities would involve the perspectives of NGOs and civil society groups.

"This is not business as usual," said Paul Ehmer, Team Leader of the Technical Support Secretariat of the Transitional Working Group tasked with building the foundations and working principles of the Fund. He pledged that the Group "will base its decisions on thorough consultations with all stakeholders, and in particular with those who will benefit from the Fund."

The Group, which is comprised of nearly 40 representatives of developing and developed countries, UN agencies, the private sector, foundations and NGOs, will meet again in Brussels from 22 to 24 November to take final decisions on a range of issues related to the Fund, which is expected to be operational by early next year.

 

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