12/01/2004, 00.00
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Orphans and transfusions: the tragedy of AIDS in China

For many years, the Chinese government has hidden the problem, now it is scrambling to deal with it. The premier Wen Jiabao talks of "unremitting efforts in the face of a dramatic situation". Today, those infected by the disease are around one million and in 2010, this figure will be 10 million.

Peking (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Orphans of parents who die of AIDS and the problem of blood transfusions – one of the leading routes of transmission – are the most urgent and tragic features of the fight against AIDS in China.

Sixty thousand children have found themselves alone after their parents died of AIDS. By 2010, this number is predicted to rise to 260,000. More than 80% come from poor families: 20% of them cannot afford to go to school and more than 50% do not have access to adequate medical care.

Data about routes of transmission of the virus give cause for concern: 20% of victims of AIDS were infected as a result of unsanitory blood-buying schemes. 41.3% of HIV-positive people  were intravenous drug users; 7.9% were infected through heterosexual relations, and 0.2% contracted the disease through homosexual relations.

This morning, President Hu Jintao visited the Youan Hospital in Peking to mark World AIDS Day. Hu Jintao publicly shook hands with several victims of AIDS. Prime Minister Wen Jiabao urged his country to undertake "unremitting efforts" in the fight against the fatal disease. He admitted that China is facing a "stark situation" in the fight against the epidemic. Wen emphasized that "still greater, substantial efforts in creating public awareness about the issue and making strenuous efforts to curb the spread of HIV/Aids."

The government in Peking has hidden the extent of the AIDS problem for many years, saying that it was not an important emergency for the well-being of the country. It is only in the last two years that the Chinese authorities have started to take adequate steps to deal with this urgent situation. According to government statistics, HIV-positive people in China add up to 840,000, but international agencies say their actual number is really much higher: the UN AIDS agency estimates that by 2010, the number of Chinese infected by the virus will be 10 million. This year, the government has budgeted 800 million yen (73 million Euros) to fight the virus. This is double the amount voted last year. (LF)
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