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Hong Kong, Guangdong Province To Increase Joint HIV/AIDS Surveillance

Hong Kong and China's Guangdong province will increase joint HIV surveillance and prevention efforts, which they began in 2003, to reduce the spread// of the virus after both governments reported record numbers of HIV cases in 2006, China Daily reports.

According to China Daily, the Hong Kong Department of Health reported 373 new HIV cases last year, an increase of 19% from 313 cases reported in 2005. Guangdong reported 4,823 new HIV cases from January 2006 to October 2006, an increase of 8.4% from the same period in 2005, China Daily reports.

According to Yu Dewen, spokesperson for the Guangdong health authority, because many new HIV cases are transmitted sexually, the two health departments will "launch a series of education campaigns to increase public awareness" about HIV/AIDS.

Lo Wing-lok, a microbiologist from Hong Kong, said that both governments should increase their HIV education campaigns. "The public must be made aware that AIDS is a serious disease that can leave them unable to work and puts a heavy burden on their families," Lo said, adding, "They should also know that the medicines used to treat the disease have side effects."

Lo also said that the governments should offer access to no-cost checkups to Hong Kong men living on the mainland and to commercial sex workers in Hong Kong. Lo said that all sex workers previously had access to no-cost medical care, but a new policy requires nonresidents to pay for health services, which cost about $128.

According to Lo, the new policy "discourages" sex workers from seeking medical care and creates a "greater public health risk." Guangdong offers medical checkups and treatment for HIV-positive people from both Guangdong and Hong Kong at 145 hospitals, according to China Daily.

In addition, the Hong Kong health department has established centers in 13 cities throughout the region to track and monitor HIV, China Daily reports.
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