By CCTV Teressa Siu
The World Health Organization says China must step up its prevention and treatment programs to deal with an additional 50 thousand new cases of HIV/AIDS each year.
Meanwhile some 200 students are taking part in a special art campaign to mark World AIDS Day. The event organizers are two American sisters who say China’s young students have an important mission ahead of them.
Two American sisters with one common goal for China, long-time Beijing residents KC and Megan Connolly promote AIDS awareness through art.
"As foreigners based in China, we feel it’s important for us to bridge the gap between the East and West. We work with middle and high schools students. They are the real spokespeople.” said KC Connolly, Aids Educator, Chart Contemporary.
Arts and a community memorial to remember artists who died of AIDS. Their target audience: local students from 11 to 19 year-olds.
"This is important knowledge for our age group. The results could be detrimental." said Victor Zheng, Student.
"Most of my peers are aware of AIDS and its consequences and take precautions." said Brenda Guo, Student.
China has been aggressively addressing its AIDS epidemic. By now, more than 200-thousand injected drug users received methadone maintenance therapy or MMT. The World Health Organization says the program could have avoided tens of thousands of infections. 206-thousand people living with HIV are taking Anti retro-viral therapy or ART.
With roughly 800 thousand people living with HIV, WHO says more must be done.
"One third of the people who are living with the virus don’t know they have it. Another third with the virus are not getting treatment. If we don’t get rid of stigma, we can’t change behavior and change it." said Dr. Bernhard Schwartlander, WHO Representative, China.
WHO says China must now provide more outlets for universal prevention and treatment. One way is through voluntary testing and counseling, which are especially critical for men who have sex with men. HIV infection rates have increased among this group in large cities due to inconsistent use of condoms.
In China, unprotected sex is still the most common route of transmission for AIDS. WHO is encouraging China to come up with more innovative ways to distribute red ribbons and free condoms to promote safe sex.
The Connolly sisters share that vision. Their hope is an AIDS free China.
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