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CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update
US Health Chief Warns Asia Against AIDS
Christopher Bodeen
October 20, 2003
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 said.

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´┐Ż 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.