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Premier Wen vows more aid to AIDS patients

Updated: 2011-12-02 06:05
( Xinhua)

BEIJING - Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao on Thursday pledged new measures to help people living with HIV/AIDS obtain affordable drug treatment, enjoy fair job and education chances and avoid being discriminated.

State Council, or the Cabinet, will soon send inspection teams to some regions with high HIV/AIDS prevalence to oversee the implementation of the central government's AIDS policies, he said.

Premier Wen vows more aid to AIDS patients

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao shakes hands with an HIV carrier during a discussion with a group of people representing HIV carriers and AIDS patients, doctors and AIDS researchers in Beijing, on Dec 1, 2011. [Photo/Xinhua]

Wen made the remark in Beijing during a discussion with a group of people representing HIV carriers and AIDS patients, doctors and AIDS researchers on the World AIDS Day, which falls on Thursday.

He said the State Council had decided to roll out special medical aid next year in regions with high HIV/AIDS prevalence to help ease heavy financial burdens of patients caused by anti-AIDS treatment.

"Detailed measures are being drafted by relevant departments," Wen said, adding that some AIDS drug will be included in the nation's essential medicine system, which means drug prices are under control and the cost could be covered by basic health insurance.

The premier also promised that the government will increase financial aid to families impoverished by AIDS. Measures will include raising allowance and providing subsidized housing to shelter homeless HIV/AIDS victims.

The actual number of people living with HIV/AIDS in China is predicted to hit 780,000 by the end of 2011, with 48,000 new infections and 28,000 deaths this year, according to the Ministry of Health. About 88,000 people have died from the disease since 1985, when the first case was found in the country.

An HIV carrier surnamed Chen, who was infected during blood transfusion, told Wen that he had encountered enormous difficulties in securing a job to earn his living due to his status.

"I don't want to become the burden of the society and I want to live a normal life as healthy people do," he said. "I wish government and the public will be more aware of difficulties we're facing."

In response to his grievance, Wen said, "It is very unfortunate to get infected through blood transfusion. People like you deserve care and assistance from the government and the society."

Wen told him that more money will be put into the system for ensuring a minimum standard of living to help families with AIDS patients in financial difficulties.

The government is also working on measures to help children orphaned by AIDS, to ensure basic standard of living, equal eduction opportunities and accessible medical treatment, he added.

Xiao Qing, an HIV carrier who works as a volunteer to help other HIV/AIDS sufferers, told the premier that discrimination against them made their life hard.

"Many HIV carriers are treated unfairly when looking for jobs and are even declined by hospitals when they need medical treatment," she said. "We desire equal treatment to live a life with dignity."

Wen said it is necessary to amend laws and regulations that have the nature of discrimination against HIV/AIDS victims.

Zhao Qingxia, a senior physician with the Henan Provincial Hospital for Infectious Diseases, told Premier Wen that some doctors and nurses are reluctant to provide operations for AIDS patients because they are afraid of being infected during operations.

The reason behind of their fears is an absence of mechanism to protect the rights of medical workers who are often exposed to blood-borne infectious diseases such as AIDS, she said.

Wen told her that HIV infection during medical work would be categorized as an occupational disease and the treatment would be covered by the nation's insurance system that takes care of injuries at workplace.

"Subsidies and salaries of people directly involved in HIV/AIDS treatment will be included in government's fiscal budget," he said.

Ahead of the discussion, Wen visited an AIDS vaccine research center and an HIV testing laboratory at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), where he was briefed the progress Chinese scientists achieved in vaccine development and HIV/AIDS surveillance.

Wen also held a brief meeting with Michel Sidibe, executive director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), and invited him to attend the discussion at the China CDC.