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Last Updated: Monday, 10 November, 2003, 12:27 GMT
Clinton urges Aids fight in China
Yu Daguan, an Aids sufferer in Dongguan village, in China's central Henan province
HIV/Aids is still a taboo subject in many parts of China
Former US President Bill Clinton has urged China to do more to combat Aids at a conference in Beijing.

He said the Sars crisis, which hit Asia hardest, had shown that countries must work together to fight disease.

"We cannot escape each other's fate," he said at the meeting, which launches a fresh campaign against the disease.

Dr David Ho, who invented the cocktail therapy for treating Aids, told delegates that 20 million Chinese could die from the disease by 2010.

Price of drugs

Mr Clinton said the price of anti-Aids drugs must come down.

"This medicine issue is an international scandal... Money shouldn't determine who lives and dies from Aids."

COMING UP: BBC AIDS SEASON
Two children
In the run-up to World Aids Day on 1 December, BBC News Interactive will be holding live debates with a series of guests:
Peter Piot, Executive Director, UNAids (16/11)
Roger Taylor of rock group Queen (16/11)
Richard Feachem, Executive Director, Global Fund to Fight Aids, TB and Malaria (24/11)
Emma Thompson, actress and campaigner (25/11)
Kenneth Kaunda, former president of Zambia (30/11)

Mr Clinton invited the Chinese Government to participate in his initiative to encourage drug companies to provide cheap generic drugs for Aids patients.

During the question-and-answer session Mr Clinton invited a 21-year-old man infected with HIV onto the stage, shook his hand and ensured that Chinese officials did the same.

Our correspondent in Beijing, Louisa Lim, says in China, where widespread ignorance about Aids has led to stigmatisation of people with the disease, Mr Clinton's action sets a positive example.

Last week, China's Vice Health Minister Gao Qiang said 5,000 HIV and Aids patients without sufficient finances would receive treatment next year.

He also said $820m had been earmarked to set up anti-Aids units.

Cover-ups

Speakers at the conference will talk about subjects which have until now been taboo, such as Aids orphans and prevention strategies among gay groups.

LIVE DEBATE
Chinese girl walks past Aids poster in Beijing
As part of the BBC World Service's HIV/Aids season, Christopher Gunness will be hosting a live and interactive debate on Monday, 24 November, with guests including:
A Chinese government Aids official
Thomas, HIV+ man from Guangzhou
Wan Yan Hai, Chinese aids activist now living in the US
David Feingold, Aids expert from Unesco

The guest list includes Aids activists like Hu Jia, who have been openly critical of the government.

He said the conference marked a change for the better.

"I think it's the first time that Chinese Government, research institutions and community workers have met at such a high level and held such an open exchanges with delegates from international Aids associations," he told the BBC.

"I think it's a very good starting point indeed."

However, our correspondent says that in areas where Aids is rife, local government officials sometimes still try to cover up the extent of the problem, stopping outsiders from visiting.

International experts have warned that unless the authorities act quickly, China's Aids crisis could spiral out of control with grave economic consequences.

Aids is estimated to have increased by 30% a year in China since 1998, with more than 800,000 infected with HIV.

Experts say the real figures for HIV infection in China could be much higher than official estimates.

Recent surveys indicate almost 80% of people in China, the world's most populous country, do not know that condoms can protect them from the disease.


WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Rupert Wingfield-Hayes
"Chinas government doen't want to admit these orphans exist"



SEE ALSO:
China HIV couple weds
04 Aug 03  |  Asia-Pacific
China's rural Aids victims
26 Nov 02  |  Asia-Pacific
China, India face Aids disaster
03 Jul 03  |  Health
Guarding China's Aids sufferers from Sars
24 Apr 03  |  Asia-Pacific
China's Aids victims 'exceed one million'
28 Nov 01  |  Asia-Pacific


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