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China vows to curb AIDS spread
(AP/China Daily)
Updated: 2005-12-01 10:00

HIV campaign turns its focus on migrant workers

When many of China's 120 million farmer-turned-workers come home for the upcoming Spring Festival holiday, they will receive condoms, a letter and education materials.

Local health and family planning authorities will provide the items to raise the workers' awareness of HIV/AIDS, which is rapidly spreading in the country.

This is only one aspect of a national campaign, which will begin today, World AIDS Day, to promote education among these workers.

Experts estimate that China has at least 840,000 HIV/AIDS sufferers, about 80 per cent of whom are living in rural areas.

Among all the 135,630 confirmed HIV carriers, 70,000 are poor farmers who were infected by the virus when they sold their blood to illegal blood stations or hospitals in the 1990s.

Many farmers, especially in Southwest China's Yunnan Province, are being infected with the deadly virus through drug abuse.

Because of their lack of prevention knowledge, these infected farmers have brought the virus to their wives or husbands through unprotected sex.

In interviews in Henan and Yunnan provinces, many villagers and officials say that some infected villagers cannot be reached by their medical services and intervention activities only because they are working in cities to make money.

These infected farmers, men and women, are a dangerous factor in further spreading HIV in urban areas, experts warned.

Currently, about 120 million labourers from rural areas are working in urban areas, and more people are expected to move there.

Most of these labourers are aged from 15 to 49, a period of life when people are the most sexually active.

Because of their lack of health knowledge, their unsafe sexual activities may become a source for HIV/AIDS spread.

The campaign is sponsored by the State Council and jointly carried out by various government agencies, including the ministries of health and agriculture.

HIV/AIDS information will be included in the training courses, which the farmers have to receive before they go outside from their hometowns from now on.

Various communication channels, such as media, posters and other education materials, will be used to spread information in villages and workplaces in the cities.

Along with that, free HIV tests will also be made available in villages and at urban worksites, such as construction places, Sun Xinhua, director of HIV/AIDS division of the Ministry of Health, told China Daily.

And in their free time, the farmers themselves can also go to get free tests. at the disease control and prevention centres in cities and grass-roots hospitals, Sun said.

Farmers confirmed as being HIV positive will be given free medical treatment and anti-virus medicine if necessary.

The campaign will last for five years with a final goal that at least 85 per cent of these farmers-turned-workers will have a clear understanding of HIV/AIDS.

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