A U.S. delegation is in China to strengthen Sino-American cooperation in the fight against AIDS. The visit comes as China's AIDS epidemic has affected more than a million people.

The American delegation, comprised of more than a dozen representatives from the public and private sectors, will spend the next week meeting with Chinese health officials, visiting AIDS treatment centers, and community-based AIDS groups.

Bates Gill is a China expert from the Washington think tank, Center for Strategic and International Studies, and co-organizer of the trip. Mr. Gill addressed a joint news conference in Beijing Monday, saying that the American group is trying to identify ways in which the United States and China can cooperate more in fighting the AIDS epidemic. "We would like to urge that China's leaders act preemptively now to contain the pandemic and avoid future high costs, socially and economically," says Mr. Gill. "We would like to emphasize the absolute importance of high-level leadership, which can bring sufficient financial and political resources to this problem."

The American delegation includes former U.S. ambassador to China, J. Stapleton Roy. and former U.S. Health and Human Services secretary, Louis Sullivan. Mr. Gill says that at the end of the trip, the group will present its recommendations to senior leaders in the Bush Administration, as well as corporations and foundations.

Senior Chinese health official Qi Xiaoqiu told reporters that China faces a very serious AIDS epidemic, and that every province in the country has now reported new cases of AIDS or HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. At least one million Chinese people are infected with HIV, but Mr. Qi says he expects that number to rise quickly.

Mr. Qi says that as AIDS-related deaths increase, the government must focus more on treatment as well as prevention of the disease. He says China is currently making four types of AIDS drugs, and is speeding up its approval for the domestic production of low-cost AIDS medicine. Mr. Qi adds that the government has approved subsidies for the treatment of AIDS sufferers in the poorest regions of the country.

Most Chinese cannot afford foreign AIDS drugs, and must rely on traditional Chinese medicine or forego treatment altogether. China for years denied that it had an AIDS problem, but the government recently has begun to admit the severity of the epidemic, and to channel more funds to anti-AIDS programs.