Top leaders on Friday pledged to prevent and control HIV/AIDS, with plans for treatment of the disease to be included in public health insurance.
"We should treat every HIV/AIDS patient no matter who he is," Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, said.
"HIV/AIDS treatment is an urgent issue as well as a complicated issue of medical science, an issue which needs all of us to take part in by investing all our efforts."
Xi was speaking during a visit to a healthcare service center offering drug maintenance therapy in the Fengtai district of Beijing.
"We should prevent the spread of HIV, and treat people living with it in a down-to-earth manner by following the principle of putting prevention in first place and complementing it with treatment."
Premier Wen Jiabao on Friday met representatives of HIV carriers, children orphaned by AIDS, medical and health science staff, volunteers, petitioners and people from relevant international organizations in Zhongnanhai, the headquarters of the central government in downtown Beijing.
"I feel gratified seeing that the HIV carriers I met before are recovering through treatment and the children have grown up. But some HIV carriers and AIDS patients I met have passed away. Thinking of them, I always feel that we should do our work better and more meticulously," Wen said.
The leaders were speaking on the eve of the 25th World AIDS Day.
In a move reflecting changing attitudes toward the disease, health authorities are considering integrating AIDS treatment into public health insurance policies.
The move is aimed at normalizing treatment of the disease.
Sun Xinhua, a division director of the Health Ministry's disease prevention and control bureau, told China Daily the ministry was trying to integrate antiretroviral treatment for AIDS into health insurance policies during ongoing medical reform which has brought insurance cover to nearly everyone in China.
"That is the future trend, which is also in line with international practices," he said on Wednesday, without giving a timetable.
Nicole Seguy, technical officer for HIV/AIDS with WHO China, said: "We understand that for the health insurance to cover antiretroviral treatment, it is not yet in place but under discussion in China.
"It is good to have free antiretroviral treatment to allow quick access to all."
She said most developing countries with no health insurance schemes have a policy for free antiretroviral treatment, while developed countries usually cover it under insurance schemes.
In China, a special system － operating independently from health insurance policies and mainly run by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention — provides free antiretroviral treatment and other basic health care and services for AIDS patients.
China has 3,430 antiretroviral treatment outlets, including those at hospitals and public health institutions.
Sun said patients can choose to receive AIDS treatment at non-designated hospitals but have to pay for the drugs.
Zhao Yan, deputy director of the AIDS treatment and care division under the National Center for AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Diseases Control and Prevention, said: "A great majority of patients here were receiving free therapy under the special system."
Zhao said integration would increase the cost of treatment a little but help bring AIDS treatment in line with that for other illnesses.
Meng Lin, a Beijing-based AIDS patient, cited widespread social stigma and discrimination against AIDS sufferers, highlighted by a case where a person with the disease in Tianjin was forced to forge medical records of his status to receive cancer surgery.
Cost will be another concern, he said. Once it is included in health insurance, AIDS patients might have to pay part of the medication fees after reimbursement, he said.
"Many of the patients are in economic difficulty and cannot afford to pay, even partly, for lifelong medication," he said.
The ministry said the government will improve insurance cover for costly serious diseases.
Shandong province is taking a lead on this. A document issued by the provincial government states that AIDS antiretroviral treatment will be placed under a local health insurance scheme in five years.