Gates Foundation commits to expansion of HIV prevention in China
New initiative to support prevention programmes targeting high-risk groups
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced today that it will commit $50 million to work in partnership with the Chinese government and non-governmental organizations to expand HIV prevention efforts in China. The funding will increase access to HIV prevention programs targeting those most vulnerable to infection, including injection drug users, sex workers, and men who have sex with men.
“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.”
Although China's national HIV prevalence is low – less than 0.1% of the total population – infection rates are high among key risk groups. For example, HIV prevalence among injection drug users exceeds 50% 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.
“To effectively fight HIV/AIDS, we must ensure that prevention programs reach those most likely to become infected and transmit the virus to others,” said Dr. Wu Zunyou, director of China's National Center for AIDS/STD Control and Prevention. “At the same time, we must combat the terrible stigma that still surrounds the disease in our country.”
Stigma and discrimination against people with HIV remain major problems in China. For example, 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 new Gates Foundation funding will support both government and non-governmental programs focused on the following:
- Prevention services for high-risk groups: Expanding effective HIV prevention programs targeting high-risk groups, including injection drug users, sex workers, and men who have sex with men
- HIV testing: Increasing access to HIV counseling and testing, particularly for high-risk groups, to help ensure that people know their HIV status
- Prevention and support for people living with HIV: Ensuring that HIV-positive people receive appropriate care and support, including prevention programs to help reduce high-risk behavior that could pass on the virus to others
- Stigma reduction: Reducing the stigma of AIDS by educating both the general public and those who work with high-risk groups and people living with HIV/AIDS
Of the $50 million committed today, a $20 million grant will go to the Chinese Ministry of Health. Decisions about specific programmes to be supported with this grant will be made by the Office of the State Council AIDS Working Committee. The remaining $30 million will be used to provide grants to local, national, and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
A small team of Gates Foundation staff in Beijing will administer the funding announced today and provide technical advice and support to the government and NGOs. The foundation's China office is led by Dr. Ray Yip, who was formerly the country director of China for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Partnership Supports Priorities in China's AIDS Plan
The new funding comes as China begins implementing an ambitious five-year plan to expand HIV/AIDS efforts. In recent years, estimated government spending on HIV/AIDS programs has increased substantially – from about $12.5 million in 2002 to more than $150 million in 2007. In addition, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria has committed approximately $180 million to China for HIV prevention and treatment programs.
The Chinese government has made important progress in reaching key high-risk groups with HIV prevention services. For example, the government has opened some 350 methadone maintenance clinics throughout the country. However, experts warn that far more remains to be done, especially to ensure that ongoing HIV prevention programs reach all those in need with effective interventions.
“I am very encouraged by the good progress that China is making in responding to the AIDS epidemic,” said UNAIDS Executive Director Dr. Peter Piot. “I am sure this valuable new commitment from the Gates Foundation, which will also assist civil society organizations, will lead to an even stronger response to HIV in China at all levels.”