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MSF in China, 2006/2007
Field Staff: 53
Reason for Intervention:
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Only 31,000 AIDS patients, including 600 children, have received life-prolonging anti-retroviral therapy from the national free program in China, despite efforts since 2002 and the probable growth of the epidemic in the absence of updated figures.
By July 2007, MSF had 1,300 HIV patients registered in its projects in Nanning, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region and Xiangfan, Hubei Province, and was providing anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs) to patients requiring treatment – nearly half this cohort. Comprehensive care is provided at these locations alongside voluntary confidential HIV testing, treatment of opportunistic infections and psychosocial counseling. All MSF services are provided free of charge, a factor particularly important for HIV/AIDS patients who can face high treatment costs and stigmatization, heavy barriers that may prevent them from seeking medical care. The Chinese government’s “Four Frees, One Care” policy only provides free counseling, testing, ARVs and schooling for children orphaned by AIDS.
At the national level, MSF has advocated to the Chinese government for quality and affordable generic medicines, in view of the rapidly growing need for secondline drugs (necessary for those patients who do not respond to standard or “firstline” drugs prescribed) and the lack of fixed-dose combination pills (FDCs). These FDCs, a recommended protocol by the World Health Organization, simplify treatment and make it easier for patients to adhere to their life-sustaining drug regimens. They are not yet available in China.
Apart from HIV, multi drug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) also warrants an urgent medical- humanitarian response in China. It is estimated there are 150,000 drug-resistant TB patients in the country. In July 2007, MSF was waiting to receive permission from the central health authorities to commence an MDR-TB program in Yanji, Jilin Province, with a target of 100 patients under treatment in the first year.
MSF in November 2006 initiated the handover process of the Xiangfan HIV/AIDS project to local health authorities, in preparation for the completion of this five-year program in March 2008.
MSF continues to provide financial support to a program for street children in Baoji, Shan’xi Province. In 2006, the management of this crisis center and shelter, started in 2000, was handed over to a local NGO.
MSF has worked in China since 1988.