Yun­nan takes ac­tion to stem spread of HIV/AIDS

China Daily (Canada) - - CHINA - By HU YONGQI and GUO ANFEI in Kun­ming

Health au­thor­i­ties in Yun­nan prov­ince, which recorded 10,553 new HIV/AIDS car­ri­ers and pa­tients last year, are try­ing to stem the spread of the dis­ease by im­prov­ing health­care and fund­ing non-gov­ern­men­tal or­ga­ni­za­tions that spe­cial­ize in ed­u­ca­tion and med­i­cal ser­vices.

The provin­cial and city gov­ern­ments spent 111 mil­lion yuan ($18.25 mil­lion) on preven­tion of the dis­ease last year, an in­crease of about 5 per­cent from 2012, ac­cord­ing to the Yun­nan Provin­cial Bureau of Health. The cen­tral govern­ment con­trib­uted 348 mil­lion yuan to sup­port the prov­ince’s fight.

Last year in the prov­ince, 7,467 people were in­fected with HIV/AIDS but were not re­ceiv­ing treat­ment, the provin­cial health bureau said. More than 79,800 people in the prov­ince are in­fected with the dis­ease.

NGOs have unique ad­van­tages, health au­thor­i­ties said, be­cause car­ri­ers of the dis­ease feel more com­fort­able ap­proach­ing them. Sev­eral of the NGOs, in­clud­ing the Yundi Harm Re­duc­tion Net­work, em­ploy vol­un­teers who were drug ad­dicts but have since cleaned up their lives. Many of the NGOs keep their pa­tients’ in­for­ma­tion con­fi­den­tial.

Rec­og­niz­ing these ad­van­tages, the provin­cial govern­ment al­lo­cated 1.5 mil­lion yuan last year to NGOs. It sought out NGOs who pro­vide ed­u­ca­tion and med­i­cal ser­vices in high­risk re­gions and who can man­age the spread of the dis­ease.

The Yun­nan health bureau set up an additional 500,000-yuan fund for NGOs to im­prove the wel­fare of HIV/AIDS pa­tients and car­ri­ers last year, said Xu Heping, deputy di­rec­tor of the provin­cial health bureau.

As of Dec 31, more than 20,000 pa­tients had died from the dis­ease in Yun­nan since 1989. Last year, there was a 23 per­cent rise in the num­ber of HIV/AIDS car­ri­ers who con­tracted the dis­ease through het­ero­sex­ual or ho­mo­sex­ual sex. Some 23 per­cent of the new in­fec­tions last year were caused by us­ing dirty nee­dles for in­jec­tions, the bureau re­ported.

Cur­rently, 176 reg­is­tered NGOs are work­ing to con­trol HIV/AIDS in Yun­nan.

Luo Zhi, pres­i­dent of Yundi Harm Re­duc­tion Net­work, said the NGO is wel­comed by HIV/AIDS pa­tients and car­ri­ers be­cause it pro­vides free treat­ment and be­cause its vol­un­teers are for­mer drug ad­dicts who sym­pa­thize with pa­tients.

“When the pa­tients know we are go­ing to help them in­stead of con­trol them, they show a stronger will to be treated or re­ceive clean sy­ringes,” Luo said.

Duo Yun, di­rec­tor of the HIV/AIDS Asia Re­gional Pro­gram’s Yun­nan Of­fice, said one of her 31 branches across the prov­ince re­ceived 40,000 yuan in fund­ing from the Yun­nan Depart­ment of Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy to pre­vent the spread of the dis­ease among “un­der­ground pros­ti­tutes” in three coun­ties.

The of­fice is also work­ing to pre­vent the spread of the dis­ease across Yun­nan’s borders. It asks vol­un­teers to hand out con­doms, ed­u­ca­tion ma­te­rial and clean nee­dles.

“The cross-bor­der preven­tion is a headache for the govern­ment be­cause of diplo­matic con­cerns if it’s not han­dled prop­erly. How­ever, an NGO like ours can do that be­cause all the work is done by vol­un­teers,” Duo said.

In 2011, the Yundi Net­work re­cruited 20 vol­un­teers from Viet­nam and Myan­mar to ed­u­cate pros­ti­tutes about us­ing con­doms. It set up two branches in Kokang mu­nic­i­pal­ity in north­ern Myan­mar to train lo­cals on how they could pre­vent the spread of the dis­ease.

The Kun­ming health bureau said it has placed anti-AIDS ad­ver­tise­ments on all 2,540 buses in the city. Sub­si­dies for AIDS preven­tion will in­crease by 15 per­cent to 10 mil­lion yuan for Honghe Hani and Yi au­ton­o­mous pre­fec­ture, Wen­shan Zhuang and Miao au­ton­o­mous pre­fec­ture, Dali Bai au­ton­o­mous pre­fec­ture and the city of Lin­cang.

This year, the prov­ince will spend 5 mil­lion yuan to buy ser­vices from NGOs in health­care con­sul­ta­tions, sex ed­u­ca­tion and as­sis­tance for virus car­ri­ers and pa­tients. Con­tact the writer at huy­ongqi@chi­nadaily.com.cn

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