The Ministry of Health has pledged to beef up free tuberculosis
(TB) detection and treatment services, particularly among migrant
The move comes as a major effort to curb the spread of TB, which
has become China's top epidemic killer, with more than 130,000
people dying from the disease every year.
The country has about 5 million TB patients, 80 percent of whom
live in the countryside, Health Ministry statistics show.
"The mobile population, especially underprivileged migrant
workers, enjoy full access to free healthcare services in TB
screening and treatment," Xiao Donglou, vice-director of the
Ministry's disease prevention and control bureau, said at a
"People infected with the airborne contagious disease should
turn to local TB prevention and treatment organizations, where free
disease screening test and further treatment are provided for all
needed citizens, locals and migrants alike."
In 2001 the State Council promised free examinations and
treatment for people infected with TB by earmarking 40 million yuan
(US$5.17 million) in funds every year. The fund kept surging and
soared 10-fold until 2006, hitting 400 million yuan (US$51.7
In recent years, considerable attention has been turned to
farmers-turned-workers, who are under greater risk of contracting
the disease due to comparatively poor medical awareness,
high-density living conditions, and mobile lifestyle, Jiang Shiwen,
director with the National Center for TB Control and Prevention,
With US$50 million from global fund for TB control put in place
last October, the Chinese government has launched a special-care
program for China's some 200 million migrant workers, Jiang
Besides free examinations and treatment, a monthly 100 yuan
(US$12) allowance is distributed to each infected migrant worker in
the two municipalities of Shanghai and Tianjin and five other
economically advanced provinces.
"TB-awareness-raising campaigns among them should be beefed up
as many simply endure the disease without seeking timely treatment,
with the fear of being sacked and high medical costs," Jiang said,
reiterating the TB treatment is free of charge.
Left untreated, each person with active TB disease will infect
on average 10 to 15 people every year, medical experts said.
Every year in China more than 130,000 die from this treatable
disease, nearly 10th of the world's total, WHO statistics show.
Among those who die, many end up with the drug-resistant TB,
which is probably caused by delayed medical intervention, Jiang
Moreover, drug resistance, which occurs in 28 percent of China's
total TB patients, arises from improper treatment regimens by
healthcare workers and failure to ensure that patients complete the
whole treatment course.
A TB patient who has developed drug resistance will need to be
treated at a cost of 20,000 yuan (US$2,587) to get cured. A common
TB sufferer is treated at a cost of only 150 yuan (US$19.40).
(China Daily March 21, 2007)