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Gates Foundation to Help China with HIV/AIDS Control

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced here on Thursday that it has promised to contribute US$50 million over the next five years for the establishment of a cooperation program with China to enhance the prevention and control of HIV/AIDS.

The program will focus on high-risk groups in entertainment venues, mainly men who have sex with men (MSM), prostitutes and drug users, according to Hao Yang, deputy director of the disease prevention and control bureau under China's Ministry of Health (MOH).

Hao, also chief of the program, said at the launch ceremony that it will be carried out in 13 large-and medium-sized cities and one Chinese province. The cities include Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin, Chongqing, Harbin, Shenyang, Xi'an, Qingdao, Wuhan, Hangzhou, Nanjing, Kunming, Guangzhou and Hainan Province.

According to recent research on MSM, prevalence of HIV/AIDS among this group in China is getting serious with the infection rate reaching 2.5 percent to 6.5 percent.

More than 50 percent of MSM have several sexual partners while only 10 percent to 20 percent use condoms. Some even have girlfriends or are married to females.

"We can afford no delay in allocating related policies and measures to control the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in China," said Hao, promising that China would spare no effort to support the program's implementation. "The support by the Gates Foundation is quite necessary and timely."

According to Ray Yip, the country representative for China of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the new program will focus primarily on two major areas -- one is in reducing risky behavior of those in high-risk groups, and the other is to minimize the chance of HIV transmission for those who are HIV positive.

The number of HIV/AIDS sufferers in China was estimated to be 650,000, according to the last major survey in 2005 by the Ministry of Health, Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS and World Health Organization (WHO). The actual number is thought to be much higher.

(Xinhua News Agency November 16, 2007)

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