Foundation criticizes government AIDS policy


The non-profit Taiwan AIDS Foundation criticized yesterday the government’s AIDS policy, claiming that the number of people contracting AIDS in Taiwan has not decreased despite of the use of an effective cocktail therapy invented by Chinese American molecular biologist David Ho.

In Taiwan the number of AIDS patients has grown, on average, by 15-20 percent annually over the past 10 years, the foundation said. In 2005, the number of new patients increased 1.24 times over the previous year’s level, the largest ever surge in new infections in Taiwan, according to the organization, which also said the number of the patients who contracted the disease through drug injections posted a three-fold increase between 2002-2005 to reach 1,463 people.

However, funds the government set aside for programs to guard against the spread of HIV-AIDS has fallen every year in comparison with the money budgeted for AIDS treatment, the foundation said, noting that the government budgeted NT$1.2 billion (US$36 million) for AIDS treatment this year, but only NT$67 million for efforts to prevent and control the spread of AIDS, down NT$7 million from the level in 2005.

Foundation Chairman Twu Shiing-jer, a former minister of health, said at a news conference held on the use of cocktail therapy in Taiwan that the foundation has found that the government is implementing a “biased” counter-AIDS policy — concentrating most sources in medical treatment and checks.

Twu blamed the situation on a fact that some people wrongly believed that the cocktail therapy can cure the mortal disease after it proved successful in prolonging the lives of AIDS patients.

At the news conference, Shi Wen-yi, deputy director of the Center for Disease Control under the Department of Health (DOH), admitted that existing measures of public health education, as well as those for AIDS prevention and control, need to be improved and reinforced as the number of people contracting AIDS through sexual intercourse continues to steadily rise.

Shi said that the cocktail therapy allows AIDS patients to lead a normal life by reducing the HIV virus load in their bodies. However, with more and more AIDS patients needing the medical treatment, the DOH has been forced to spend more money on providing the drug cocktail and conducting medical examinations: funds which annually come at the expense of programs targeting disease prevention and control, the official explained.

According to the foundation, in the seventh year since Taiwan adopted the cocktail therapy, funds targeting AIDS prevention and control amounted to only 15 percent of those provided for medical treatment. That ratio dropped to 5 percent in 2007, the 10th year of Taiwan’s use of the innovative therapy.