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More HIV/AIDS Help for Xinjiang

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Residents in parts of Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region may soon be required to undergo testing for HIV/AIDS prior to marriage, local media reported on Tuesday, citing a revised draft law on AIDS prevention and treatment.

The regulation is just part of a series of measures to stem HIV/AIDS in parts of Xinjiang, where the disease is spreading the fastest, according to a report by the Xinjiang Metropolis Daily.

Many aspiring couples abandoned pre-marital medical checkups after China abolished the compulsory procedure in October 2003.

However, the news report said the abolition has led to a rise in birth defects among newborns in the country, for example.

The draft law takes a more complete approach toward HIV/AIDS, however. Under the draft law, health care workers testing potentially HIV/AIDS infected people will get on-the-job stipends, as is common for other people whose jobs may put them into contact with the disease,, a local news portal, reported.

Meanwhile, those already infected with the virus, who or have become sick or are no longer able to work, should be eligible for government assistance or consolation grants, reported the news portal.

Patients or carriers living in cities with financial hardships or those from rural areas would also have access to free medicine, counseling and examinations.

Xinjiang's legislative body has held a discussion on the draft and local media reports did not say when the draft would be enacted.

As of early this year, Xinjiang had the fifth-largest population of reported HIV/AIDS patients or carriers among all provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions in China, according to the region's health department.

The latest official data shows China had at least 740,000 people infected with HIV/AIDS on the mainland at the end of 2009.

Government funds for the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS in Xinjiang would amount to one billion yuan (US$146.8 million) this year, Zhang Yongzhong, deputy head of Xinjiang's health department, said in an interview with China Daily in 2009.

This is almost threefold over the funds in 2009, which were 35 million yuan, said Zhang. As of end of last year, a combined number of nearly 180 million yuan of government funds have been contributed to the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS in Xinjiang since 1999.

(China Daily July 28, 2010)

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