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Last Updated: Monday, 24 November, 2003, 11:38 GMT
Aids in China: breaking the silence
An HIV+ man from Henan, China
Why is HIV-Aids a more sensitive issue for the Beijing government than international terrorism, Tibet or even Taiwan?

For years Beijing was in denial, as the HIV virus spread across the Burmese border and thousands of ordinary people were infected through unscreened blood banks.

There are signs that the government is starting to come clean.

Last week's visit by Bill Clinton to Beijing coincided with a new commitment by the government to treat 5,000 Aids patients.

But the United Nations estimates that there could be over 10 million people infected with HIV in China by the end of the decade.

Is the government doing enough to tackle the epidemic? Can there be a frank and informed public debate about Aids within a communist state? And what is life like for Chinese people living with Aids?

A special interactive debate broadcast as part of the BBC World Service's HIV-Aids season, China Live looked at the way that Aids is affecting the country. A selection of your comments are published below and reflect the balance of views we have received:

Thank you for waking me up! I'd grown very blase about Aids, but suddenly I'm full of new knowledge and fired up for the fight once again. God bless the BBC.
Cath Perry, Australia

I want to know how the UN estimates that there could be over 10 million people infected with HIV in China. It's well known that China has a huge population and the majority live in small villages. It's not that easy to solve this problem as fast as other developed country with far less people.
Maple, China

Can you tell me which government is doing enough to tackle Aids? Do you think the UK government is doing enough?
Liming, China

I think the Chinese government can do much more to prevent the prevailing of Aids.
Walker Luan, China

Aids, like Sars, is a worldwide problem
Andy, China

Aids, like Sars, is a worldwide problem. What we should do is not to comment, but do our effort to prohibit the popularity of this deadly disease. Only in this way, Aids will disappear.
Andy, China

I have been watching the online BBC news about China since coming to New Zealand as a student two years ago. I think BBC tends to report negative news about China rather than positive ones. It is true that the government in China still have a lot to do to deal with the epidemic. My questions are "In what ways and how severe the epidemic in China will affect the rest of the world?", and "what organisations are cooperating with the Chinese government to help Chinese people with Aids and how"?
Erica Zhu, New Zealand

It's true that our government could do better. We should have concentrated more on education and the public health. But the problem is that we're still developing. Unlike the developed world, they have money to do more things. In some rural provinces, some kids just can't afford the tuition fee. They are not able to get education. That's another problem. If they were well educated, at least they would know how Aids is spread.
DJ, China/Singapore

China is huge country. It is very difficult for the central Government to implement country wide health policies.
Eddie, Singapore

Maybe, most of those Chinese who are infected with Aids don't realise the seriousness at the beginning. They are shy to go to the hospital to get the right treatment. At present, our government engage in propaganda for the seriousness. We are on our way to make the conditions better. We also should bear in mind although the number is bigger, the percent is smaller.
Xingyan, UK/China

I quietly agree with the point of this news article. In my area, I see many people infected from using illegal drugs through injection.
Yang, China

Lets try and get alongside the fairly few who are doing the right thing, trying to educate people about Aids, and help those who already have it
Josh, England

Aids is a global problem that needs to be tackled globally. That means, on every scale, from local up to global, the issue must be faced, with at least some unity. As a western nation, we should not point fingers; we should offer the help we can from our abundant resources. After all, the spread of western attitudes to other nations, such as sexual freedom has actually been part of a cause of Aids spreading so rapidly. It's too late for blaming, lets try and get alongside the fairly few who are doing the right thing, trying to educate people about Aids, and help those who already have it.
Josh, England

Having working for almost 10 years with Chinese officials of different levels on the Aids problems, I don't think that they are denying the problem. Instead, they simply could not quantify how big it is and do not know how to deal with it. Chinese workers do not have enough information, expertise and resources to deal with the problem. It is not true that they do not have a will; many workers I met are very devoted indeed. It is more important to the people in China that we offer actual help rather than very superficial criticisms.
Joseph Lau, Hong Kong

I would like to know what HIV/Aids means for the productivity in China? Will there be a shortage of staff and educated people? And is Aids a negative factor for the economic boom? (like in Africa) Another issue is orphans - what is the system in China?
Alice Petrén, Sweden

I hope that when Westerners are complaining about the problems in China, they bear in mind that China is still a developing country with limited resources to fight Aids. The problems in China are not unique and exist in quite a number of countries.
Tom Qian , China

Because of our traditions, Chinese feel ashamed when they are talking about sex
Wu Zifeng, China

I am a college student from Henan province in central China. I think our education system should play an important role in combating Aids. Because of our traditions, Chinese feel ashamed when they are talking about sex, so we know very little about the deadly disease Aids.
Wu Zifeng, China

China over the years has evolved a policy that tends only to one angle, and that is to keep its secrets secret. If only the government was willing, China is capable of bringing the epidemic under control, but the government must be sincere.
Enitan Roberts, Nigeria

In order to tackle the HIV crisis effectively, China must accept that HIV is a problem that affects everyone. Sex before marriage is acceptable for a growing number of people in China. We need to stop letting moral judgements about HIV affect the way we tackle the problem.
Vicky, UK

After watching almost all the news concerned with China from the BBC, I do believe that the BBC fails to reflect what China is nowadays. My mother is a doctor who works in rural area in north-west China. Every year her hospital will spend almost 6m RMB on Aids patients and every patient who can prove he/she cannot afford the medical fee will enjoy the free treatment! Such developments are not reflected in your reports.
Dong Bruce, China

The spread of Sars did not have to happen as it did. It could have been contained and controlled if the Chinese had been more open about their problem and not been concerned about 'saving face.' I fear that a circumstance is building that will dwarf the horrors Sars brought. The Chinese must simply not get away with their childish egotistical behaviour any longer.
David Wright, Canada

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Disclaimer: The BBC may edit your comments and cannot guarantee that all e-mails will be published.

China's forgotten Aids victims
13 Nov 03  |  Asia-Pacific
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30 May 01  |  Asia-Pacific
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09 Aug 01  |  Asia-Pacific

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