HIV expert advocates free testing, treatment

PUBLISHED : Friday, 22 December, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 22 December, 2006, 12:00am

A prominent HIV expert has called on mainland officials to provide funding to medical centres for the free testing and treatment of prostitutes, saying that this is an efficient way to prevent the spread of the disease.

Wu Zunyou , director of the National Centre for Aids/STD Control and Prevention, said free medical services for prostitutes would not only save the lives of sex workers infected with HIV, but also the lives of their customers and their customers' spouses.

'HIV is like Sars and other infectious diseases. Anyone can be infected,' Professor Wu said yesterday in Beijing, adding that free HIV testing and treatment for prostitutes was necessary in the absence of effective measures to eliminate prostitution from the mainland.

He stressed the most important task in China's HIV education campaign was to impress upon people, especially officials and medical staff, that anyone can be infected.

'People know the harmfulness of HIV, but many of them feel HIV is other people's business,' said Professor Wu.

'Most people,' he said, 'don't think it can happen to them.'

To illustrate his point, he noted that more than 50 per cent of middle-aged doctors on the mainland were smokers even though the dangers of smoking were well known.

'Indeed, many cadre members in charge of medical resources haven't studied the HIV-related rules very well.

'Giving free medical services to all people infected with HIV has been listed in our 11th Five-Year Plan targets,' said Professor Wu.

At a State Council-sponsored HIV campaign for party cadres in Guangzhou earlier this week, he learned, after playing a prank on the delegates, that most audience members believed HIV could only be contracted through drug abuse, homosexual intercourse and sex with prostitutes.

'HIV education has a long way to go,' Professor Wu said.