China Offers Free AIDS Tests, Treatment for the Poor

In a bid to more aggressively fight its growing epidemic, China announced today it will offer free HIV tests to anyone who wants one and provide free treatment for HIV-infected people who cannot afford it. "Beginning today, people in China's mainland who receive voluntary AIDS counseling and tests can obtain them for free," the state-run China News Service reported. The Health Ministry announced plans for free drugs and treatment on its Web site.

China reports 840,000 of its people are HIV-infected and 80,000 have progressed to AIDS, but UNAIDS says those numbers could rise to a combined 10 million by 2010 without more prevention and treatment efforts.

The announcements did not include information about how many people were expected to take up the services or how much they would cost. On the Health Ministry's Web site, a list of medications that would be provided for free was posted, but details about income level qualifications were not listed. The ministry press office did not immediately respond to requests for further details.

The Beijing Daily reported that the number of government clinics offering free HIV tests has been increased from four to 22. Until recently, HIV tests were available only in centers that treated drug addicts and sex workers, but health officials are now encouraging tests for pregnant women and other members of the public.