China has expanded HIV/AIDS therapy to cover over 90 percent of patients in the country, and for those already in treatment there is a 90 percent success rate, signifying major progress in tackling the disease, according to a recent study.
A successful treatment outcome for HIV/AIDS patients means that the virus' replication in the body has been suppressed to the extent that the viral load in the blood remains undetectable.
Improving access to effective treatment has resulted in a decrease in the disease's mortality rate and a marked rise in life expectancy for HIV/AIDS patients in the country, said the study released on Oct 20 by China CDC Weekly, a research platform of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
The study found that a treatment and support policy launched in 2004 has played a "pivotal" role in the progress. The policy promises free antiretroviral drug therapy for HIV/AIDS patients, free counseling and testing, free schooling for children who've lost parents due to the disease, free services for pregnant women with HIV/AIDS, as well as intensified care for impoverished patients.
The study was co-authored by researchers from the China CDC's National Center for AIDS/STD Control and Prevention, Peking University's School of Public Health, and the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences' School of Population Medicine and Public Health. It was published ahead of this year's World AIDS Day that falls on Wednesday.
The study also found that the mortality rate of HIV/AIDS in the country has been declining since 2018. However, the prevalence rate has kept climbing.
The study said that growing awareness of the disease and widening HIV screening have led to the rising reported rate of the disease. In the meantime, more readily available treatment programs for patients and the growing number of people living with the disease have resulted in the continuously increasing prevalence rate.
"Collectively, these findings underscore the significant progress China has made in the prevention and control of HIV/AIDS," it concluded.
In addition, the study said that males, the elderly and people in western parts of China appear at higher risk of contracting the virus.
Li Tongzeng, a doctor at the infectious disease department at Beijing YouAn Hospital affiliated to Capital Medical University, said that through complying with standard treatment regimens, most HIV/AIDS patients can stay in stable condition and their risk of spreading the virus would be very low.
"The key to controlling the disease is ensuring that infected patients can get diagnosed promptly. Awareness campaigns should be consistent to encourage high-risk groups to access screening, diagnosis and treatment as early as possible," he said.