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MSF in China, 2007
Field Staff: 63
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MSF is providing free HIV /AIDS treatment to complement the national government program, which still has significant gaps. In addition, cases of drug resistant TB are on the increase, and this trend needs to be addressed using affordable, accessible drugs.
Addressing gaps in HIV/AIDS Treatment
Official figures indicate that some 700,000 people in China were infected with HIV/AIDS at the end of 2007. Of the 85,000 needing antiretroviral treatment (ART), fewer than half, including 600 children, are actually receiving the drugs they need. Through a national program, the government has provided free testing and medication, including ART drugs, to people living with HIV/AIDS and schooling for children infected with or affected by HIV/AIDS.
Nevertheless, HIV/AIDS treatment and care are not integrated. ART drugs are delivered at the Chinese Centre for Disease Control, whereas treatment for opportunistic infections is provided at a designated county hospital. Tuberculosis (TB) treatment is provided in another structure. Some patients also face high treatment costs, including the HIV confirmation test, medical consultations, laboratory tests, drugs to prevent and treat opportunistic infections, hospitalization and transportation. Many do not seek or receive comprehensive care due to the stigma associated with their situation.
The free HIV/AIDS comprehensive care and treatment provided by MSF aims to address some of these problems. After five years, the project in Xiangfan, Hubei Province in Central China, will be handed over to local health authorities in March 2008. Another project in Nanning, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region will continue. By the end of 2007, almost 1,500 HIV/AIDS patients were registered in the Nanning and Xiangfan MSF projects and over half received ART drugs and other services.
As tuberculosis numbers grow, MSF implements programs
According to the recent World Health Organization Global Tuberculosis report, China had 4.5 million cases of tuberculosis in 2006, with an estimated 1.3 million new cases each year. The spread of drug resistant TB is of even greater concern, with over 130,000 new patients estimated each year. At least half of drug resistant patients in China have never taken TB drugs before, a population equal to 10 per cent of the global burden.
Due to the growing epidemic and the lack of access to affordable treatment, MSF plans to launch TB treatment programs in collaboration with the provincial and central authorities. In Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region and Jilin province, two northern provinces where government statistics indicate the situation to be more severe, MSF has engaged in in-depth negotiations to establish a drug resistant TB prevention and management program.
MSF has worked in China since 1988.