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UNAIDS Chief Urges China to Fight Stigma of the Disease


The head of the United Nations effort to fight AIDS says China is making progress against the disease, but warns there is much work to be done, especially in battling the stigma of AIDS. Sam Beattie reports from Beijing.

UNAIDS chief Dr. Peter Piot says China is increasingly addressing the AIDS problem, and providing treatment to more people.

But Piot warned in Beijing that China still has a long way to go in combating the stigma the disease carries in Chinese communities.

He says discrimination is a problem around the world, and is evident even within the United Nations, but China must improve education to combat the stigma.

"This will require continuing efforts that was initiated by leaders, senior leaders of this country when meeting with people living with HIV, with [AIDS] orphans, we all have to start with ourselves and contribute in our own work place," said Piot.

Chinese officials for years played down reports of AIDS cases and discouraged efforts to educate the public about disease or HIV, the virus that causes it. While the government has become more open about AIDS in the past few years, it has harassed and detained activists campaigning for better access to AIDS treatment and to ban discrimination against victims.

But Piot praised senior officials for leading the way by talking openly about the disease.

During his visit to China, he gave Wang Longde, the vice minister of health, a U.N. award for his leadership in combating the HIV virus. Zhang Beichuan received an award for what the United Nations calls his pioneering work in awareness raising about the disease.

An estimated 650,000 people live with HIV or AIDS in China.