They say that early HIV testing and a focus on cross-border travel are needed to help control the spread of disease Hong Kong and the mainland should improve their efforts on prevention to help control the spread of HIV/Aids before it is too late, experts said yesterday. On the eve of World Aids Day, they also urged people to get tested early so that they could receive treatment. Medicins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders), which opened the first free HIV clinic in Aids-ravaged Hubei province, said it was not too late for intervention and prevention efforts so that the spread of HIV to the general population could be minimised. Luc Van Leemput, who heads the Beijing-based mission of MSF Belgium, said during a visit to Hong Kong: 'Both in Hong Kong and in mainland China it is important that the efforts on prevention are further increased and also that patients can be treated. It is like with Sars - although they have different modes of transmission - HIV will affect Hong Kong, and not only because of cross-border travel.' He said with proper and prompt reaction, the Aids problem on the mainland could still be contained. 'In China it has not spread to the extent that it has spread in other countries. That is the big challenge now. China is now where some countries in Africa were a decade or 15 years ago,' he said. Arthur Pang Wai-keung, an MSF Hong Kong volunteer doctor who will work at the Xiangfen clinic in Hubei for six months, said Aids could ravage whole families, as he had seen during his training in South Africa at MSF Cape Town last month. 'I have seen the very sick ones, especially those who are not on anti-retroviral therapy [ARV], and those infected with tuberculosis. I have also seen the very healthy ones, surprisingly most of them are on ARV and you can see the dramatic difference between those who are on ARV and those who are not - they put on weight, they become healthier, they eat more, they have better appetites,' he said. Mr Van Leemput said the reality is that Aids can be treated and treatment can make a dramatic difference to people living with HIV. 'They respond to the treatment and they get stronger again. After some time most of them are able to start working again, take care of their children, take care of the environment,' he said. MSF will provide free drugs and treatment of infections to about 500 sufferers out of an estimated 3,000 in Xiangfen. The agency will also offer counselling, information education, and organise mutual support groups. Graham Smith, chief executive of Aids Concern, said that unlike most Asian countries, the Hong Kong government was putting most of the HIV/Aids money into treatment at public hospitals 'but arguably we are not doing enough prevention measures'. TeenAIDS founder Atty Ching Tsui-wan said cross-border travel should be addressed as she had been told that some Hong Kong teenagers had been infected by HIV through unprotected sex. Increasing numbers of teenagers were crossing the border for entertainment and engaging in high-risk behaviour. Legislator for the medical sector Lo Wing-lok said taxpayers shoulder about $100,000 a year to treat each HIV patient with antiretroviral drugs but government support should not end with treatment alone. 'People living with HIV have to face issues such as employment, family and social issues. A lot of them face discrimination,' he said.