The television drama dealing with the issue of Aids which was shown across the mainland last night revealed how much the approach to tackling the disease has changed since the first HIV cases were documented some 20 years ago. For years the virus was perceived by many people as a product of, and problem for, the Western world, where it had been created by decadent sexual practices. Later the prevailing wisdom was that Aids was a danger only to male homosexuals and drug abusers. Time and the exponential growth of the disease outside of these groups have proved such assumptions to be fallacious. The mainland drama was much more than a scare tactic broadcast to coincide with World Aids Day. Featuring a family man who becomes infected after a heterosexual encounter, it unambiguously attempted to remove the stigma of Aids being associated only with minorities - and, in many tragic cases on the mainland, with tainted blood transfusions. Moreover, the victim in the drama becomes a hero. Such sympathetic, even heroic, depictions have transformed attitudes towards the disease in the West. The same transformation is desperately needed on the mainland. The problem, now being tackled in earnest by the authorities, threatens to overwhelm health care facilities in coming years if prevention of transmission cannot be drastically slowed. The virus, so long considered an automatic death sentence, need not present such a threat any longer. And, crucially, transmission between mother and child can now be largely prevented. Such medical advances mean little, however, to the vast majority of the world's estimated 40 million HIV carriers, simply because most of them live in the poorest parts of the world. It was therefore gratifying that GlaxoSmithKline yesterday promised to cut the cost of two key drugs for sale in South Africa along with Merck, Sharp and Dohme's announcement that two retroviral drugs will be made available in China at a vastly reduced price. Such bold initiatives could save hundreds of thousands of lives. But drug therapies alone cannot - unless a vaccine is discovered - dramatically bring down transmission rates of the virus between adults. The real breakthrough will come when ignorance about the disease - who is at risk and how it is transmitted - is dispelled. This is the mightiest weapon with which to tackle the virus. And to this end the mainland's TV show - which reached up to 95 per cent of the population - marks a long overdue and positive shift in attitude on the part of the authorities.