Reuters / By Tan Ee Lyn / Tue May 16, 2006
HONG KONG (Reuters) - China needs to manufacture pediatric HIV drugs for
its tens of thousands of children suffering from the disease, an AIDS
activist said, adding that the state was not giving enough help to the
Antiretroviral drugs help prevent HIV replication and prolong the lives
of people with the disease. But pediatric formulations are not widely
produced as they are not regarded as commercially viable, because rich
nations are very successful in preventing mother-to-child transmission
of the virus.
Chinese companies began producing at least three generic ARVs in 2002,
which sharply reduced the cost of caring for its citizens living with
the disease, but does not manufacture dosages for children.
"Over the last four years, children have died literally in my arms.
There are many, many children without ARVs yet, so if we can provide
ARVs on time, we can prolong their lives," said Chung To, a leading Hong
Kong-based AIDS activist.
To is the founder of the Chi Heng Foundation, which provides education
and help for children suffering the impact of AIDS in China. To goes
often to the central province of Henan, where many impoverished farmers
and members of their families contracted HIV in the 1990s after they
sold blood to unsanitary clinics.
The Bill Clinton Foundation donated ARVs drugs for 200 children in 2005,
86 of which were distributed through Chi Heng.
"Until last summer, there were no pediatric ARVs available in China. So
if you were a child with HIV in China, it is very hard to get treatment
today," To told Reuters.
"I hope the Bill Clinton effort will make them (China) more aware that
there are children affected by HIV, they shouldn’t just take care of
China lowered by around 30 percent the estimated number of people living
with HIV/AIDS to 650,000 in January, but activists say the figure is
It says it has 76,000 AIDS orphans and estimates the figure will hit
260,000 in 2010.
"Even going by this figure (650,000), there can’t be just 76,000
children impacted by AIDS. You can’t have ten times more adults to just
one kid," To said. He reckons there are at least a million children
either living with the disease or suffering the impact of it - living
with HIV/AIDS-stricken parents.
To also urged China not to wait to help such children. For now, aid is
given only to children who have lost both parents.
"For children with parents living with HIV, they suffer a lot more
because they have to take care of their parents, they are traumatized
seeing the death of their parents ... they have to earn money, so they
end up taking care of both dying parents and younger siblings," he said.
China strongly encourages citizens to test for HIV. In 2005 alone, there
were 70,000 new infections and 25,000 died of AIDS.