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CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update
AIDS Fighters: CDC Helps China Curb Spread of Deadly Disease
Julie Chao
October 15, 2003
Atlanta Journal-Constitution (10.15.03) - Wednesday, October

CDC has named Taiwan-born health expert Ray Yip director of a new program to stem the spread of AIDS in China. With an initial budget of $3 million, the China program is CDC's response to requests for assistance from the Chinese Ministry of Health and reports from a CDC team sent to the country in 2001 to assess the AIDS threat. China is the newest of 25 countries where CDC has set up offices under the Global AIDS Program, funded by the US Congress. Yip and his deputy, Bessie Lee, will officially open the China office on Monday, October 20.

More than 70 percent of China's HIV/AIDS patients are drug users; most of the rest are farmers infected through blood- selling schemes. Yip said HIV has not spread significantly to the general population. HIV infection is still less than 1 percent among sex workers, but that rate is up tenfold from about five years ago. Surveys have shown that Chinese sex workers have a low rate of condom use and low awareness of how to prevent STDs. "Once the infection rate of sex workers gets to a critical level, like 3 or 4 percent, then it will be very hard to control," Yip said.

Yip foresees a three- to four-year window of opportunity to prevent an explosive AIDS crisis in China. CDC's China office has a start-up staff of four public health professionals, increasing to six next year. Working with the Ministry of Health and some six provincial governments, the office will improve prevention, treatment and surveillance of HIV/AIDS. It will also mount prevention efforts in a few provinces still relatively unaffected by the disease.

In addition to helping create surveillance models, set up labs and handle other technical issues, Yip hopes to use China's epidemiological data to convince leaders that there is still a chance to get HIV/AIDS under control. "A lot of people think it's too late in China," he said, "over a million infected. They think the genie is out of the bottle. I actually disagree. I think the genie is two-thirds in the bottle."