Date: 07-19-2002

HONOLULU -- The United States has proposed senior-level talks with China on combating HIV/AIDS, the U.S. secretary of state's special representative for the worldwide epidemic said at the East-West Center today.

The proposal has received positive initial responses from the Chinese government, said Dr. Jack C. Chow, who recently visited Asia. Chow aims to hold the talks by the end of the year.

With at least 850,000 infected people in China and some estimates almost twice as high, Chow agreed that AIDS in the world's most populous nation is a potential problem of "titanic proportions."

"The campaign can't be won without success in China," Chow said, adding that regulations there are now more "punitive in nature."

"China must take ownership of the problem and increase money (for HIV/AIDS). We stand as partners."

Chow serves as deputy assistant secretary of state for health and science in the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs at the State Department. He has also been nominated by President George Bush for the rank of ambassador on HIV/AIDS.

Speaking on "The New Era of AIDS Diplomacy: Confronting the Pandemic as a Foreign Policy Imperative," Chow said the United States wants to encourage countries around the world to mobilize their private sectors and create public-private partnerships to fight HIV/AIDS. That includes the largest countries in the world as well as the smallest Pacific island nations.

He said other countries should look at ways to adapt successful programs such as those in Thailand. "Political will is very important. Political strategy is extremely important."

The Bush administration has targeted $1 billion for new international initiatives on HIV/AIDS. Half of that amount would be devoted to preventing the transmission of the virus from infected mothers to their children.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell has made the international fight against HIV/AIDS one of his top three priorities, Chow said. "Three-fourths of all Americans think we have done enough. We need to do so much more to educate the domestic audience about the pandemic."

Chow said HIV/AIDS affects the world's economies and political stability as well as health. "This is a foreign policy imperative. It's not just about public safety but national security."

Chow said programs must look at prevention as well as treatment and reach out to all segments of populations -- high-risk groups such as prostitutes and drug users as well as youth. The U.S. Agency for International Development has devoted $25 million to a "condom fund."

He also said high levels of government as well as grass-roots leaders needed to be involved. "This needs to be a full-court press."

This is an East-West Wire, copyright East-West Center