China on the brink of AIDS epidemic
The Borneo Post Tuesday October 15 2002
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UN Secretary General Kofi Annan warned China yesterday that it
"stands on the brink of an explosive AIDS epidemic" and must act
immediately to halt the potential catastrophe.
is no time to lose if China is to prevent a massive further spread of
HIV/AIDS. China is facing a decisive moment," Annan told an audience
of university students in the central city of Hangzhou.
epidemic has become a moving target, and is at risk of spinning out of
speech was the most high-profile international warning yet to China's
leaders that they need to tackle the crisis, and follows a UN report in
June which said the country faced an "AIDS catastrophe".
with AIDS would take "leadership at every level", Anna said in a
speech at Zhejiang University,. where he received an honorary doctorate.
requires breaking the silence and stigma that surrounds the disease,"
who arrived in China late Sunday, flew to Beijing later in the day for
talks with President Jiang Zemin and Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan which
were also expected to cover the current international crisis over Iraq.
met Jiang at a formal ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in central
Beijing on Monday afternoon before the pair got down to private
one of five permanent UN Security Council members, has expressed disquiet
over US calls for military action against Iraq over alleged weapons of
mass destruction, and has called for a political settlement.
AIDS activist groups have long accused Chinese leaders of trying to cover
up the country's crisis over the virus and of doing little to help
recent months, however, even Beijing has begun to acknowledge the gravity
of the problem. In an unusually frank assessment, a top Beijing health
official warned last month that by the end of the decade there could be 10
is death," he said. Failure to deal with the problem would cause a
host of both social and ecic problems, Annan warned. "Clearly, China
has everything to gain if it can stem the tide of the AIDS epidemic and
everything to lose if it fails to do so."
the weekend, a human rights group urged Annan to press Chinese leaders
over the harassment of groups working with AIDS patients inside China.
late August, prominent Chinese AIDS campaigner Wan Yanhai was detained for
four weeks on charges of allegedly leaking state secrets through his work.
had been particularly active in publicising the plight of rural
communities devastated by the virus after selling blood to unsanitary
government-approved blood collectors during the 1980s and 1990s. -AFP