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[BEIJING] Secondary schools in China's capital, Beijing, will soon be required to provide children with compulsory HIV/AIDS education. And schools in other Chinese cities are set to follow suit, according to officials at the Ministry of Education.

Beijing's municipal commission of education announced last week that the HIV/AIDS courses for secondary school students would begin this autumn.

There will be four hours of HIV/AIDS-related education during each of the first three years of secondary education. Courses will cover the science of HIV/AIDS, how it spreads within populations, the social and economic threats of the disease, and information about effective disease prevention.

Beijing's move follows recommendations by the education ministry that teaching on drug control and HIV/AIDS prevention should be strengthened during basic education. And on 9 May 2004, the State Council — China's cabinet — demanded that secondary schools across the country should add education on HIV/AIDS prevention to their normal courses.

By the end of 2003, China had reported 840,000 HIV/AIDS carriers and patients. But researchers estimate that without effective control, that number will reach 10 million by 2010.

The Chinese government has recently strengthened its efforts to prevent and control the spread of HIV/AIDS. In April, the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Finance jointly declared to offer free HIV/AIDS drugs to low-income rural and urban AIDS patients.

However, experts say education on HIV/AIDS, drug addiction, and sex are still underdeveloped in the world's most populous country. Before this year, virtually no schools in China taught pupils about HIV/AIDS.

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