China would double the number of AIDS patients it treated with traditional Chinese medicine, officials have said. It is part of a broader push to increase the use of the ancient practice in the country’s medical system.

"The number of people living with AIDS who are treated with traditional Chinese medicine should be twice what it was in 2015," the State Council said on its website on Sunday. The council is China’s cabinet.

The council has a five-year plan to tackle HIV/AIDS. The plan outlined collaboration between traditional Chinese medicine departments and national health and family planning commissions "to find a therapeutic regimen which combines traditional Chinese medicine and western medicines", the website said.

The push aligns with a recent effort by the government to make the practice a priority for both development and publicity. Traditional Chinese medicine, dating back thousands of years, treats ailments using herbal mixtures and physical therapies such as acupuncture and cupping. The science behind such remedies has long been questioned. In January medical researchers disputed a study claiming that acupuncture could cure babies of colic.

In late December the Chinese legislature passed its first traditional Chinese medicine law, which will allow practitioners to be licensed and make it easier for them to open clinics. There are about 450,000 such practitioners across the country, according to the State Council Information Office. The government sees the practice as a cost-saving alternative to modern healthcare.

The new initiative to tackle HIV/AIDS aims to reduce "AIDS-related homosexual behaviour" by at least 10% and the mother-to-child transmission rate to less than 4%.

In a 2015 report China told the UN that it had 501,000 cases of HIV/AIDS the end of 2014.


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