HEFEI, Nov. 30 (Xinhua) -- Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao visited people living with HIV/AIDS and thanked workers dealing with the disease in the eastern Anhui Province over the weekend.
Wen told a special symposium composed of AIDS experts and grassroots medical workers in Funan County, that government funds for prevention and control would increase year-by-year.
The Ministry of Health said on Sunday that 264,302 people in China were reported to contract HIV, of whom there were 77,753 AIDS patients, by the end of September, while 34,864 people died of AIDS.
However, according to a joint estimation of the ministry, UNAIDS and WHO, there were some 700,000 Chinese living with HIV/AIDS by the end of 2007.
Wen said anti-viral medication should be listed in the country's basic medicine catalogue.
He went on to say AIDS control and prevention was "of vital importance" as it was directly linked to the lives and health of the masses. Efforts should be strengthened in high-incidence regions and within specific groups, Wen said.
"The Chinese people are proven to have the confidence, resolution and ability to do a good job of AIDS prevention and control."
The premier stressed that various Party committees and governments should put the AIDS issue at the top of agendas and ensure that policies really benefited patients and their families.
Upon his arrival in Yingzhou District, Fuyang City of Anhui on Saturday afternoon, Wen went to the home of Huang Jinhong, a high schoolgirl whose parents died of AIDS. Huang and her sister and brother were invited by Wen to the Zhongnanhai, the Chinese leadership's Beijing compound, two years ago when the premier chatted with them and inquired about their needs.
With a red ribbon on his bosom, Wen embraced the three children and inquired about their study and life. He was very glad to see the children, together with their grandmother in her 80s, had obtained living subsidies for families struck by the disease.
By giving each of them a set of dictionary and a schoolbag, Wen encouraged them to study hard and lead a meaningful life.
Fuyang's Yingzhou District has a high HIV/AIDS prevalence. The documentary "The Blood of Yingzhou District" by Ruby Yang and Thomas Lennon, which won the 2006 Oscar for Best Documentary Short Subject, told stories of children orphaned by AIDS in a poor village of Yingzhou.
Later, Wen went to the Dahu Village of the Funan County where HIV carriers were in a large number. Villagers with HIV burst into tears when the premier shake hands and talk freely with their fellows.
Wen became silent when he found a seven-year-old girl Xiao Xue was a HIV carrier. He let the girl sit beside her and encouraged her to have faith in life.
He asked about the implementation of national AIDS prevention and control policies in the village and praised the local efforts that the "four frees and one care" policy were implemented well since 2004.
The policy included providing free anti-viral drugs and treatment to poor patients, free counseling and antibody pre-screening services, free counseling and maternal tests for pregnant women and free tuition fees for children orphaned by AIDS. The local government also offered living subsidies to AIDS patients and orphans.
"If I had not taken the medication, I would not stand here today and might have died many years ago," a middle-aged woman told the premier.
"Where there is life there is hope. We are all concerned about you. Your priority is to receive the treatment and take the medication," Wen said. Turning to the officials, he said various levels of Party committees and departments should offer more aid to AIDS patients.
The premier nodded his head after learning that local food sales, farmers working in cities as casual labors and children's schooling were not affected by discrimination against the disease.
"AIDS patients and orphans were often considered as an underprivileged group. We should let them get their basic life allowances and form a social trend of caring AIDS patients through education," Wen said.
Walking into a community medical service center for AIDS patients in Funan County, the premier shook hands with patients and asked each about their physical conditions.
"Optimism and perseverance is vital for a patient," he said. Wen particularly praised Cheng Xianyue, a local AIDS patient who donated 2,000 yuan (256 U.S. dollars) after a massive earthquake struck southwestern Sichuan Prvovince in May.
The premier had visited AIDS patients and medical staff ahead of the World AIDS Day on Dec. 1 or on festival occasions since he started his tenure in 2003.