Mainland medical authorities will this year expand a two-year-old pilot programme that treats thousands of Aids patients with free traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). She Jing, director-general of the State Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine, said three more provinces would be added to the 11 provinces covered by the project last year. Ms She said 3,500 Aids patients received free TCM therapy last year, building on 2,300 patients treated in 2004. Outside the programme, she said more than 2,300 Aids patients sought TCM treatment at local clinics in 19 provinces last year. 'Experience has proved that TCM has an obvious effect on easing common clinical symptoms, curing opportunistic infections, alleviating side-effects of antiviral drugs and improving the patients' quality of life,' she said. Wei Jianan , from the Chinese Academy of Traditional Chinese Medicine, said that compared with western medical therapies, the advantages of the traditional approach were that it did not depend on strict timing, and required less frequent tests and fewer medical staff to prescribe and monitor.