BEIJING, Dec. 1 (UPI) -- To commemorate World AIDS Day Saturday, Chinese Vice Premier Li Keqiang publicly acknowledged the epidemic and pledged more support for HIV/AIDS organizations.
About 68,802 new HIV/AIDS cases were reported this year in China through October and AIDS related-deaths increased by 8.6 percent to 17,740 deaths, CNN reported.
Li called the HIV/AIDS situation in China "not only a medical issue but also a social challenge."
He also pledged greater support and tax breaks for organizations that support people with human immunodeficiency virus and AIDS, an expansion of free drug treatment for people with the disease and protection of patients from discrimination at hospitals.
"Li is very friendly and decisive," said Li Hu, director of HaiHeZhiXing AIDS Volunteer Group, who met with the leader Monday. "There are hopes that we can do a better job with leader's help."
Although some critics say Li's outreach to the HIV/AIDS community is not enough, most welcomed it.
Li Hu, an activist based in Tianjin, said the government's outreach is "definitely a boost for our work. Policies can only be well executed with their supervision."
"I do believe [Li] has done some good things, if we look at the record of him as a governor and party head," said Wan Yanhai, a former government health official turned AIDS advocate.