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Winter 2004
East Meets Westwood
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Chinese men looking at HIV/AIDS booklets
Photography by Palani Mohan/Getty Images
ZIZHONG, CHINA: Men at a tea shop look at booklets about HIV/AIDS awareness handed out by local people who have the virus. People distribute the leaflets in an effort to educate rural Chinese about the disease. A million people in the Asia and Pacific region became infected with HIV last year, while more than half a million people died from AIDS-related causes. UNAIDS says that when the figures for 2004 are tallied, they will be significantly higher.

Among the most fruitful of Detels’ pairings has been with one of his first trainees, China’s Zunyou Wu M.S. ’92, Ph.D. ’95, who has become one of that country’s best-known HIV/AIDS researchers. In the late 1980s, as escalating injection-drug use among young men in the Golden Triangle was spreading HIV at an alarming rate in the villages of southern China’s Yunnan Province, Detels, Zunyou and colleagues created a drug-prevention project in which village leaders organized youths into teams to tackle community-improvement projects as a way of building self-esteem, and provided informal settings where youngsters could socialize. The program resulted in a two-thirds drop in drug-use initiation among young men. Based on that success, Detels was asked to help implement a similar study in a commune in northern Vietnam, where HIV had begun to move from injection-drug users to the larger heterosexual population. One of the infectious-disease-control professionals at Vietnam’s Ministry of Health who helped to establish that project, Nhu To Nguyen M.S. ’04, is now enrolled in the Fogarty/UCLA program.

Detels and Zunyou also collaborated on the first report of an HIV epidemic among former plasma donors in China — mostly poor rural villagers who would sell their blood to commercial centers as many as two to three times a week. Their revelation in 1995 that former donors were infected — most likely through contaminated equipment used in the collection of plasma and reinjection of blood cells — led to an immediate shutdown of all illegal commercial plasma centers by China’s Ministry of Health. Nearly a decade later, the ramifications continue. In her dissertation on high-risk sexual behavior among the infected former plasma donors in Anhui Province, current UCLA/Fogarty trainee Guoping Ji has established that many are visiting commercial sex workers locally and in urban areas, and that their rate of condom use is low.


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