Herbal cure for AIDS

The traditional medicine, Tangcaopian has won a FAO licence to be used to treat the disease.
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Published on May 18, 2004 01:49 AM IST
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PTI | ByAgence France-Presse, Beijing

The Chinese province worst-hit by HIV/AIDS is turning to traditional Chinese medicine because Western-style drugs proved to have too many side-effects and were too expensive, state media said on Tuesday.

Central Henan province, which has at least 35,000 HIV/AIDS patients, will kick off a campaign next month to promote traditional medicines as a way to fight the disease, the China Daily said.

Efforts will be targeted mainly at the area's vast countryside, where most of Henan's HIV/AIDS carriers live.

The decision to use traditional medicine comes 10 months after China launched a program to provide free anti-retroviral drugs to thousands of AIDS-stricken farmers.

Health officials have since admitted the drugs are old, less effective versions, and around 20 per cent of patients have stopped taking them because of severe side-effects.

Newer drugs are too expensive.

While patent expiration for major AIDS-treatment medicines has lowered the annual treatment costs for an AIDS patient in China to less than 20,000 yuan (2,415 dollars), it is still far beyond the means of the average Chinese.

The report said the new scheme would be launched at selected hospitals in the province. Teams will also be established to explore the potential of treating AIDS and HIV with traditional Chinese medicines.

Lin Ruichao, director of the Department of Traditional Chinese Medicine at the Beijing-based National Institute for the Control of Pharmaceuticals and Biological Products, was cited as saying there was "great potential" for traditional Chinese medicines to help treat HIV/AIDS.

So far though only one traditional medicine -- Tangcaopian -- has won a State Food and Drug Administration licence to be used to treat the disease.

Most of Henan's HIV/AIDS patients were infected through blood transfusions at illegal blood donor stations.

While the government says 35,000 people are infected in Henan, experts estimate at least one million farmers in the province alone contracted HIV/AIDS in the blood trade.

No-one has ever been held responsible.

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