China promotes traditional medicine to combat AIDS

China promotes traditional medicine to combat AIDS
PHOTO: The Straits Times

Beijing - China will double the number of AIDS patients it treats with traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), officials have said, part of a broader push to increase the use of the ancient practice in the country's medical system.

The promotion of TCM is part of a five-year plan from the State Council, China's cabinet, to tackle HIV/AIDS.

"The number of people living with AIDS who are treated with traditional Chinese medicine should be twice what it was in 2015," the State Council said on its website Sunday.

The plan outlined collaboration between traditional Chinese medicine departments and national health and family planning commissions "to find a therapeutic regimen which combines traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and Western medicines".

HIV and immunity

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    HIV is a sexually transmitted disease caused by the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV).

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    The HIV virus causes Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS).

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    You can't get HIV through mosquito bites, sharing a cup or utensils with a person infected with HIV or sharing room space either.

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    HIV can also be spread through contact with infected blood (through blood transfusions)

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    or from mother to child during pregnancy or breastfeeding.

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    You can't get HIV through ordinary contact like holding hands, touching, kissing, hugging or dancing with someone who has HIV or AIDS.

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    However, you can get it through unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sex with an infected person.

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    Primary infection (acute HIV): Most people who are infected by HIV develop a flu-like illness within one or two months after the virus enters the body. This illness may last for a few weeks.

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    Chronic HIV: There are no specific signs and symptoms, though some people can have swollen lymph nodes.

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    Early symptomatic HIV infection: Here, the HIV virus keeps on multiplying and destroying T-cells. The fever and flu-like symptoms may come back, along with the swollen lymph nodes, diarrhoea and oral yeast infection.

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    Progression to AIDS: This happens in 10 years from when you first got the HIV infection if you don't get treatment. The immune system is now severely damaged, and you are prone to all sorts of opportunistic infections that usually don't happen in normal healthy people.

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    There is still no cure, but a lot of anti-retroviral drugs can be used to control and slow down the spread and multiplication of the virus.

The TCM push aligns with a recent effort by the government to make the practice a priority for both development and publicity.

TCM, dating back thousands of years, treats ailments using herbal mixtures and physical therapies such as acupuncture and cupping.

The science behind such remedies has long been questioned. Last month medical researchers disputed a study claiming that acupuncture could cure babies of colic.

In late December the Chinese legislature passed its first TCM law, which will allow practitioners to be licensed and make it easier for them to open clinics.

There are about 450,000 TCM practitioners across the country, according to the State Council Information Office.

The government sees the practice as a cost-saving alternative to modern healthcare.

The new initiative to tackle HIV/AIDS will aim to reduce "AIDS-related homosexual behavior" by at least 10 percent and mother-to-children transmission rates to less than four percent.

In a 2015 report China told the UN that it had 501,000 cases of HIV/AIDS as of the end of 2014.

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