Beijing targets halving of HIV cases

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 08 May, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 08 May, 2007, 12:00am

Vaccine development to top agenda to 2010

The mainland has spelled out science and technology plans to combat the country's Aids pandemic in a key document that vows to cut the infection and death rate by half within five years, Xinhua reported.

According to the Outlines for Scientific and Technological Control and Prevention of Diseases, released yesterday by the Ministry of Science and Technology, the research and development of Aids vaccines and treatments will top the ministry's work agenda until 2010.

Two years ago, the central government ordered that the prevention and control of major infectious diseases such as Aids and hepatitis be one of the 16 major science and technology tasks during the 11th five-year plan. But the ministry's outline document marks the first time a detailed science and technology programme to combat Aids officially has been mapped out.

Under the outline, the mainland plans to establish an effective Aids therapy and immunisation programme suitable for both adults and children. The targeted effectiveness of the programme is 50 per cent within the first year.

The country also plans to complete the third and final phase of its first HIV/Aids vaccine test. The first phase of the test was launched in March 2005 in Nanning , Guangxi , where 49 volunteers aged between 18 and 50 received vaccine injections.

The preliminary clinic testing of the safety of the trial vaccine reported satisfactory results last June, according to state media. If the test entered the second or third phase, more volunteers would be recruited from larger groups, especially high-risk groups, researchers have said.

The mainland will also strive to develop between three and five Aids diagnostic reagents, with the aim of improving success in detecting HIV/Aids.

Also under the outline, three to five Aids vaccine and drug-test centres, one or two animal-vaccine test centres and two to three Aids-medicine clinic research centres will be set up by 2010.

The Ministry of Science and Technology announced in December that it had developed two low-cost HIV/Aids drugs after a year of clinical trials.

The home-grown Aids treatment therapies are only a sixth of the cost of imported drugs and equally effective, according to the ministry.

This brought the number of home-grown anti-HIV/Aids drugs to five, with different combinations of three or more drugs, or 'Aids cocktails', providing different levels of therapies.

The mainland officially says it has about 650,000 HIV-positive people, but experts estimate a much higher figure, with perhaps one million people infected in Henan province alone because of a botched blood-selling scheme in the area in the mid-1990s.

The government has vowed to keep the number of cases under 1.5 million by 2010, a number sharply lower than the World Health Organisation's projection of 10 million if nothing is done to prevent the disease's spread.

More than 80 per cent of HIV carriers on the mainland are aged between 20 and 39, state media says.

Deadly battle

Researchers estimate a mortality rate for human HIV infection of 60pc

The number of mainlanders who have died from Aids-related illness, according to the health ministry: 12,464