Associated Press (10.19.03) - Monday, October 20, 2003
The rapid spread of AIDS in China and India could wreck any
chance of containing the disease, US Health and Human Services
Secretary Tommy Thompson warned Sunday in Beijing. "We are
worried that if the epidemic grows in India and China like it
has in sub-Saharan Africa, it may be then too late to ever
contain it or be able to hopefully some day defeat it with a
vaccine and a cure," Thompson said.
China has long considered its AIDS problem a national shame,
but officials last year opened up and said an estimated 1
million Chinese were HIV-infected. Officials say that number
could rise to 10 million by 2010 without effective action.
Thompson said officials he met with, including Executive Vice
Health Minister Gao Qiang, had been "very responsive" to
concerns about the epidemic. Chinese officials, admitting to
past mistakes in dealing with the epidemic, are now planning a
new AIDS prevention, treatment and education campaign,
Thompson urged top Chinese leaders to speak openly about AIDS,
coordinate between government departments in combating its
spread, and forcefully implement policies. "If it becomes an
epidemic like it has in Southern Africa then we're going to be
in big trouble," he said.
In addition to more openness about the epidemic, China has
also begun looking to the international community to help in
fighting HIV/AIDS. China recently was awarded a $21 million
grant from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and
Malaria. CDC also plans to open an office in Beijing on
Tuesday, and Thompson said his department would station an
attach� at the US embassy in Beijing in January.
Thompson also announced that the United States and China will
enhance ties between their health services to prepare for a
re-emergence of SARS.