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The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) has had an office in China since early 1996.

The ten co-sponsoring agencies of UNAIDS (UNHCR, UNICEF, WFP, UNDP, UNFPA, UNODC, ILO, UNESCO, WHO, World Bank) are all involved in some way or another in AIDS activities in China. In particular, WHO, ILO, UNDP and UNICEF have collaborated with the Chinese program on a number of initiatives including surveillance, advocacy and training.

The UNAIDS team has an overall coordinating and facilitating role in China. It takes an active role in advocacy and resource mobilization efforts to fund and support national AIDS activities implemented by the various partners.

The formal establishment of a UN Theme Group on HIV/AIDS under the aegis of the UN Resident Coordinator has been an easy task in China. The Theme Group is not restricted to UN agency representatives and participation by government, bilateral and NGO representatives is encouraged. It meets on a bi-monthly basis.

The Theme Group's terms of reference accord with the focus of UNAIDS, which is to strengthen national capacities to take action on HIV/AIDS and to ensure a long-term sustainable response. To achieve these goals, key activities include increased collaboration and joint action by the ten co-sponsors and joint monitoring and evaluation of the common UN response; facilitating and providing for technical support for the national response to AIDS in order to disseminate international best practice; strengthening the capacity of Chinese leadership to coordinate and monitor the national response to HIV/AIDS; advocacy for political commitment and multisectoral involvement and cooperation for resource mobilization.

The UN Theme Group in China is supported by one UNAIDS country coordinator and a number of officers and staff. They are actively involved in the development of a network of partners in AIDS activities, which is important given the vertical programme structure and difficulties in working across sectors. The UNAIDS office staff provides technical, policy and management advice to the various partners involved in the AIDS response in China. Much of the advisory role focuses on promoting international best practice derived from lessons learned from past and ongoing AIDS effort worldwide.

While UNAIDS supports and strengthens national coordination in China, it does not substitute for it. On the contrary, the Chinese authorities are responsible for the overall coordination of AIDS activities at all levels and also for external assistance, including that from the UN and UNAIDS itself.

The Ministry of Health is the designated focal point for coordinating a multisectoral response and, as the focal point, it is the national coordinating counterpart to UNAIDS. A multisectoral coordinating group, drawn from high ranking representatives from ministries and sectors has been created and meets regularly under the leadership of the State Council. The Ministries of Health, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade, Railways and Public Security, the National Education Commission, the All China Women's Federation and many more are represented on this coordinating group which is the national counterpart to the UN Theme Group on HIV/AIDS.

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