Interview: UNAIDS chief says China greatly contributes to tackling HIV

Source: Xinhua| 2017-06-28 18:39:33|Editor: MJ
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GENEVA, June 28 (Xinhua) -- China has achieved remarkable progress in tackling HIV and contributed a lot to assisting the developing countries in this regard, Michel Sidibe, executive director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), told Xinhua in a recent interview.

"China has stopped a major public health threat by acting fast and decisively. We have seen strong political commitment at the highest level. From Premier Wen Jiabao to President Xi Jinping, all have given priority to HIV," Sidibe said.

The First Lady, professor Peng Liyuan, has also been an important champion for HIV prevention, particularly for children and young people, ensuring inclusion and dignity, Sidibe added.

The UN agency presented Peng with the UNAIDS Award for Outstanding Achievement in recognition of her remarkable contribution to the global response to HIV in January this year.

"China has embraced evidence-based programs, like offering treatment as soon as a person tests positive for HIV, scaling up of treatment options for people who use drugs and creating initiatives to support men who have sex with men including making PrEP -- medicine to prevent HIV among people at higher risk of exposure to the virus -- available," Sidibe said.

"China is also now working for triple elimination of mother to child transmission of HIV, hepatitis B and syphilis in major provinces," he added.

With global efforts, enormous progress has been made during the past 10 years.

More than 18 million people now have access to lifesaving treatment, new HIV infections among children have been reduced by 50 percent since 2010 and AIDS-related deaths have fallen by 45 percent since the peak in 2005, according to the agency.

However, around half of the 36.7 million people living with HIV still do not have access to treatment, nearly two out of five people living with the virus do not know they have HIV and there are still about 2.1 million new HIV infections every year, which are challenges to the international community.

"UNAIDS strongly believes that if we overcome these challenges we can end the AIDS epidemic by 2030," Sidibe said.

After taking part in the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation held last month in Beijing, Sidibe applauded China's contribution in tackling HIV worldwide.

"China has taken a leading role in helping with establishment of an African Centre for Disease Control and Prevention. This will help build a foundation for good health cooperation within Africa and with partners around the world," he said.

UNAIDS encourages China to continue to help build the capacity of health systems in Africa from building hospitals and rural clinics, to increasing laboratory capacity and transfer of knowledge, he added.

Inspired by barefoot doctors in China, the UNAIDS aims to train 2 million community healthcare workers in Africa by 2020 to help close the human resource gap for health.

"China's barefoot doctors took health care to remote and inaccessible areas and saved lives. These health workers had the essential skills and training to manage most common health issues. They knew the communities they served. That is the principle behind the 2 million community health workers initiative in Africa," Sidibe said.

"Investments in trained community health workers create good jobs, thereby reducing unemployment and strengthening national and local economies, especially in rural areas," he added.