The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has announced that it will commit $50 million in partnership with the Chinese government and nongovernmental organizations to expand HIV-prevention programs in China.
The funding, which will include a $20 million grant to the Chinese Ministry of Health, will be used to increase access to both government and NGO HIV-prevention programs for injection drug users, sex workers, and men who have sex with men. It will also increase access to HIV counseling and testing, particularly for high-risk groups, with an emphasis on diagnosing HIV status; ensure that HIV-positive individuals receive appropriate care and support; and help reduce the stigma of AIDS by educating both the general public and those who work with high-risk groups and people living with HIV/AIDS.
Although the prevalence of HIV in China is low — less than 0.1 percent of its population of 1.3 billion people — infection rates are high among key risk groups. For example, HIV prevalence among injection drug users exceeds 50 percent in some provinces, and in the past two years there have been substantial increases in HIV infection rates among men who have sex with men. In addition, stigma and discrimination against people with HIV remain major problems in the country. A 2005 study by researchers in Yunnan province found that nearly a third of doctors said they would refuse to treat an HIV-positive person.
The Gates commitment comes as China begins a five-year plan to expand HIV/AIDS programs. The foundation's China office in Beijing — led by Dr. Ray Yip, formerly the country director of China for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — will administer all funding and provide technical advice and support to government and nongovernmental organizations.
"By rapidly expanding access to effective HIV prevention, China has an opportunity to prevent a widespread HIV/AIDS epidemic," said Dr. Tachi Yamada, president of the Gates Foundation's Global Health Program. "China's leaders say they are serious about fighting AIDS, and we're pleased to partner with them on these efforts."