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Last Updated: Sunday, 12 February 2006, 17:03 GMT
China issues new rules on Aids
A couple in front of an Aids awareness poster in Beijing
China has been warned it could have 10 million with Aids soon
China has announced new rules to control and prevent the spread of Aids.

The law, which comes into force on 1 March, will also ban discrimination against Aids sufferers.

Local authorities will be responsible for providing free testing, as well as free medication for poor patients and pregnant women who have the disease.

Last month, China lowered its estimate of the number of HIV/Aids cases in the country, but health agencies continue to warn of a serious national problem.

Criminal offence

The new regulations make the intentional spreading of the disease a criminal offence.

Aids sufferers and their families will also have their identities protected under the new law.

However, there are questions over how effective the new regulations will be.

"The problem in China is not the lack of laws but whether these laws will be implemented by local governments," Aids activist Hu Jia told Reuters news agency.

China now believes it has about 650,000 people living with HIV, lowering its estimate of 840,000 people in 2003.

Aids awareness among migrant workers in Chengdu of Sichuan Province, south-west China
Warning of a serious Aids epidemic in China continue

However, the government announced last month that 70,000 people contracted the HIV virus - which can lead to Aids - in 2005.

Most of these are believed to be intravenous drug users or sex workers and their clients.

International experts say the Chinese government cannot afford to be complacent.

UNAids has estimated that up to 10 million people could be infected by 2010 if aggressive prevention methods are not put in place.

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