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New York Times Examines HIV Testing Program In China

The New York Times examines an HIV prevention program in China aimed at promoting blood screening that has led “more than 110,000 people” to be tested so far: “On any given night, in 14 cities around the country, hundreds of people flock to makeshift blood collection centers in bars, bathhouses and apartments where workers test for syphilis and HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.”

The program, which began in 2007, “is financed by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which will spend $50 million over five years in an effort to slow the spread of AIDS in China.” Because the testing drive offers “financial incentives” to both blood donors and those drawing blood, the New York Times writes that the initiative “has provoked a flurry of criticism from some established AIDS organizations that say the money has given rise to a network of fly-by-night groups whose only interest is collecting money.”

The newspaper continues, “Here in China, the foundation’s stated mission is to identify HIV-infected people as the first step in getting them treated. Those who know their status, architects of the program say, are also more likely to modify behavior that puts others at risk. The payments, they say, are crucial for bringing people face to face with outreach workers.”

The article notes how, in an effort to “empower the small but growing crop of nongovernmental groups,” the foundation “has linked up with the Ministry of Health, which funnels $20 million to about 200 nonprofits. … By compelling the government to work with privately run organizations, the foundation is hoping to foster a lasting relationship between them — and over time contribute to creating more profound changes in Chinese society,” the newspaper writes.

“We are experiencing some of the hiccups of a less-than-perfect arrangement, but we expected that,” said Ray Yip, who runs the foundation’s China effort. HIV/AIDS advocate Tong Ge, who the New York Times reports has advised the Gates Foundation, said, “So much of the Gates money has ended up nurturing corruption in a place it didn’t exist before. … But the truth is we can’t blame them. The real problem is with China.”

The article also adds details on the government’s attitude towards private HIV/AIDS organizations, the epidemic in China and comments from health experts and organizations on the ground (Jacobs, 12/2).

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