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Speech by Executive Vice Minister of Health, Mr. Gao Qiang, at the HIV/AIDS High-level Meeting of the UN General Assembly

2003/09/22

Honorable Chairperson,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Entrusted by Mr. Hu Jintao, President of the People's Republic of China, I now have the pleasure to attend this HIV/AIDS High-level Meeting of the UN General Assembly in an open, responsible, trustful and cooperative manner.

The UN General Assembly Special Session on HIV/AIDS two years ago has played an important role to arouse the global attention on HIV/AIDS and coordinate and improve the global HIV/AIDS prevention and control. The establishment of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria and in particular, the convening of this High-level Meeting on HIV/AIDS demonstrates once again the importance the international community has attached to HIV/AIDS. The Chinese government highly appreciates the relentless efforts and the outstanding contributions made by the United Nations in promoting global actions against HIV/AIDS.

HIV/AIDS is a common enemy of the whole mankind as it seriously threatens public health and safety. The Chinese government has attached great importance to HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment and has treated it as a strategic issue for social stability, economic development, national prosperity and security, making it a first priority of the government work. The Chinese President Hu Jintao once stated explicitly, "HIV/AIDS prevention, care and treatment is a major issue pertinent to the quality and prosperity of the Chinese nation. The party and government leaders at all levels need to deepen their understanding of the issue and motivate the whole society to deal with it. Starting with education and focusing on prevention, we should be determined to contain the spread of HIV/AIDS." Mr. Wen Jiabao, Premier of the State Council, is also very concerned about the HIV/AIDS issue and has repeatedly given instructions to departments concerned to improve HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment, "…dealing with HIV/AIDS as an urgent and major issue, which is related to the fundamental interests of the whole Chinese nation". Based on the experience and lessons learned in the past ten years, we have established the principle of HIV/AIDS prevention, care and treatment, i.e., focusing on prevention, integrating prevention with treatment and adopting comprehensive measures to deal with it". Medium and long term strategic plan and action plans have been developed to prevent and control HIV/AIDS while criminal acts like illegal blood collecting, smuggling, drug trafficking and prostitution have been cracked down. Moreover, the central and local governments have allocated 6.8 billion yuan to establish and improve the disease prevention and control mechanism in the provinces. Each year more than 200 million yuan are used as a special fund for HIV/AIDS prevention, care and treatment. The central and local governments also invest 2.25 billion yuan, mainly to strengthen the blood stations in the middle and western regions. The national government conducts the centralized procurement of antiretroviral drugs and gives free treatment and care to HIV/AIDS patients in priority areas. The Chinese "care" project, which has been established in 51 counties of China, encompassing extensive and comprehensive prevention and treatment measures such as health education, behavior intervention, antiretroviral treatment, consulting and care. The whole country is now developing the HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment mechanism featuring government leadership, multi-sector cooperation and public participation.

However we are also fully aware of the fact that the HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment in China is still faced with arduous tasks. China is a developing country with large income gaps among the regions. In particular, the economic and social development in rural areas is still at an early stage. Criminal offenses like smuggling, drug trafficking and prostitution have not been eliminated. In some areas HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment have not been adequately attended and funded. Therefore HIV/AIDS in China has not been effectively controlled. This year, China, WHO and UNAIDS conducted a joint HIV/AIDS epidemiological survey whose initial analysis shows that currently, China has about 840,000 HIV/AIDS infections including about 80,000 HIV/AIDS patients.

Faced with the arduous tasks of HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment, the Chinese government considers itself highly responsible for public health and safety. We will intensify our work, strengthen the prevention and treatment measures and be determined to contain the prevalence and spread of HIV/AIDS.

First, we will strengthen government efforts to fulfill the responsibility. The Chinese government has considered HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment an important task. We will further clarify the targets, identify the responsibilities and improve evaluation, supervision and monitoring. Should there be any HIV/AIDS spread caused by ineffective work, we will hold the person or department in charge accountable for the negligence.

Second, the Chinese government is committed to provide free treatment and medicines to HIV/AIDS patients who are in economic difficulties. This program will cover low-income HIV/AIDS patients in urban areas and all patients in rural areas. Moreover, the central and local governments will invest more than 10 billion yuan to strengthen the medical assistance system to people suffering from infectious diseases and train people to conduct professional HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment.

Third, we will improve the laws and regulations and intensify the intervention on dangerous behaviors. Public awareness campaigns will be launched, educating the public and encouraging them to participate in the HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment efforts. Illegal acts like drug trafficking, drug use, prostitution and illegal blood colleting and supplying will be cracked down while drug-free community and healthy sexual life will be promoted.

Fourth, we will protect the legitimate rights of HIV/AIDS patients and oppose social discrimination against them. In all the 124 counties where the Chinese "care" project will be established, integrated measures including antiretroviral treatment, care and life assistance will be adopted. The government will provide economic aid to HIV/AIDS patients living in poverty and their children will be tuition-free students.

Fifth, we will be more active in international cooperation. The HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment in China have received concern and support from the international community, to whom I hereby express our heartfelt appreciation on behalf of the Chinese government. We welcome the continued financial and technical support from the governments of the nations and the international organizations. Meanwhile, the Chinese government is ready to be active in the global fight against HIV/AIDS and fulfill its responsibilities and obligations. We have pledged USD$10 million to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria to support the HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment efforts of developing countries, fulfill the development goals of the UN Millennium Declaration and contribute to the early control of HIV/AIDS prevalence and realization of the global HIV/AIDS control objective.

Thank you all.

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