By the end of 2007, the Chinese Ministry of Health indicated that there were approximately 700,000 people living with HIV in China. Unsafe injecting drug use (IDU) is one of the main modes of HIV transmission in China.
International experience consistently shows that the rates of HIV infection among inmates of prisons and other detention centres are significantly higher than those in the general population. A key factor is that marginalized groups, among whom a higher proportion of people engage in high-risk activities in terms of HIV infection, also have a high probability of being sent to prison or a similar institution. Furthermore, available data indicates that closed settings are a high-risk environment for HIV infection.
In October 2005, the Government of China and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) signed a Memorandum of Intent (MOI) for the establishment of a UNODC Project Office in Beijing. The UNODC Project Office was later established in January 2008. Beyond technical cooperation in the field of drug prevention and control, the Government specifically requested UNODC to provide assistance to address HIV and AIDS related to drug use and in closed settings. Subsequently, UNODC and the Government of China, in close cooperation with UNAIDS and the World Health Organization (WHO), jointly developed a technical assistance project to address HIV related to drugs and in closed settings.
This initiative is known under the name 'Strengthening the Role of Law Enforcement in China's HIV Response'. Its goal is to strengthen law enforcement action to prevent the further spread of HIV/AIDS in China by: creating a coordinating body within the National Narcotics Control Commission; institutionalizing HIV/AIDS prevention in the education institutions of the Ministry of Public Security and the Ministry of Justice, capacity building, and; offering prevention, care and treatment to those in confined settings.
The formulation of the project was based on the growing awareness and commitment by national law enforcement agencies of the need to complement the preventive measures made by the health sector to stop the spread of the HIV epidemic and reduce relapse into drug use. Its underlying core strategy is that comprehensive approaches to HIV do not work without the involvement of police and their full support.
The main project activities are the following:
- Activity under objective 1: To provide the Government of the People's Republic of China with a comprehensive analysis report and recommendations for an effective response by law enforcement to HIV/AIDS in closed settings and in the affected community.
- Activity under objective 2: To create an enabling environment for effective approaches by strengthening the capacity of the National Narcotics Control Commission (NNCC) to develop a multi-sector response to HIV/AIDS and promoting law enforcement as a lead agency in preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS among injecting drug users including within detention facilities.
- Activity under objective 3: To strengthen the capacity of law enforcement agencies to develop and implement coordinated, multi-sector, rights-based, harm-reduction policies.
- Activity under objective 4: To improve access to HIV/AIDS prevention, care, treatment and support to all residents within confined settings through the establishment of effective linkages between these settings and services and resources in the community.
- Activity under objective 5: To improve availability and access to HIV/AIDS treatment, care and support services in detention centers, including Voluntary Counseling and Testing (VCT), and strengthening effective linkages between closed settings and HIV/AIDS treatment and care services and resources in the community.