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“The only thing necessary for these diseases to the triumph is for good people and governments to do nothing.”

CHINA: "Belatedly, China Confronts AIDS"

Los Angeles Times  (12.20.08)::Barbara Demick
     The Chinese government's long-standing denial of the country's HIV/AIDS epidemic has given way to a publicity blitz aimed at increasing awareness of the virus and minimizing the stigma associated with it. China has roughly 700,000 HIV/AIDS cases.
     The extent of ignorance surrounding the disease is staggering. A recent survey of 6,000 Chinese students, migrant workers, and blue- and white-collar workers found 48 percent thought the virus could be transmitted by mosquitoes.
     To commemorate World AIDS Day on Dec. 1, a massive red AIDS ribbon was hung from the National Stadium, known as the Bird's Nest during the Summer Olympics. President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao were photographed with their arms around HIV-positive people. And numerous editorials in state media addressed HIV/AIDS stigma. "Time to recognize that AIDS is a disease, not a shame," the official New China News Agency urged.

     However, "In China, the problem is not so much with the central government or the provincial government" when it comes to HIV/AIDS, said Li Dan, a Beijing-based expert. "At the local level, there are officials who treat anybody involved with AIDS as a criminal or a troublemaker."

     In the western part of China, especially Yunnan province bordering Myanmar, and in the Xinjiang region, HIV/AIDS is spreading fast among injecting drug users. Ju He, an activist from Beijing, and others are working to stem infections by distributing clean needles to IDUs. But local police continue to thwart their prevention efforts, stationing themselves across the street from the exchanges and arresting anyone who shows up.

     "It is very difficult to stop AIDS among drug users," said Ju. "The local governments don't want us working with this population because they consider them criminals."