(AFP) 11 September 2005
BEIJING - Former US president Bill Clinton’s AIDS foundation has
committed to providing free anti-HIV/AIDS drugs to infected children in
China, foundation officials said on Sunday.
"It hasn’t been publicly announced but it has been made known to
officials in China. We’re willing to provide drugs for as many kids as
needed," Aaron Pattillo, a drug procurement specialist for the Clinton
Foundation, told AFP.
In June the foundation begun treating an initial 200 HIV-positive
children identified by the government as being in need of the drugs.
Treatment will now be expanded to some 2,000 patients, said Jessica
Haberer, a Beijing-based research advisor for the Clinton Foundation.
"We don’t know the actual number of kids who need the drugs, but we’ll
treat up to 2,000 and we’re actually going to work with the government
to try and identify more kids and if there are more, we will not leave
them uncared for," Haberer said.
"I’m sure there are many many more kids who need the drugs."
Most of the children identified contracted HIV from their parents, many
of whom were poor farmers in central China who became infected after
selling blood in the 1990s. Other youngsters were infected from blood
China, which for years ignored the plight of the infected farmers, has
in recent years begun providing patients with free anti-HIV/AIDS drugs
manufactured domestically. However, its pharmaceutical companies do not
make drugs suitable for child victims.
China admits it has more than 840,000 HIV/AIDS patients, but
international and domestic independent health organizations estimate
there are many more.
The Clinton Foundation is working with Chinese health authorities to
help it obtain second line anti-HIV/AIDS drugs to treat adult patients
who are resistant to first line treatment.
The two foundation officials were speaking after a ceremony in Beijing
hosted by Clinton to celebrate a programme set up by his foundation to
train Chinese doctors in the United States so they in turn can treat
HIV/AIDS patients in rural areas and train local doctors.
Clinton Sunday praised the progress made by China, but said "there’s
much more to do".
One problem he highlighted was the disparity in health care services
between China’s urban and rural areas.
"Most of the expertise in dealing with HIV/AIDS is found in urban areas
... but most HIV/AIDS patients are in rural areas," Clinton said.