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Despite a program to provide no-cost antiretroviral drugs to HIV-positive people in China, patients are being forced to pay for their treatment because of a "relentless drive for profit within the Chinese health care system," The Washington Post reports. The AIDS epidemic in China has "exposed how local profit-seeking" in the country's health care system is undermining government efforts to fight the disease.
Medical experts, government officials, and patients say that Chinese doctors at local hospitals who are responsible for dispensing AIDS drugs are "exploiting those in need, padding bills with unneeded drugs and dubious services," the Post reports.
The government launched the antiretroviral drug program, which aims to supply 30,000 HIV-positive people with treatment by the end of 2005, using a $95 million grant from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria. About 2,000 of the 19,000 patients who have received antiretrovirals through the program have stopped taking them because of side effects, including low blood pressure, insomnia, and nausea, medical experts say. In addition, many doctors prefer to "prescribe expensive medicines than give away something for free," the Post reports.