Background Over the past 20 years, civil society organizations (CSOs) in China have significantly increased their involvement in the AIDS response. This article aims to review the extent of civil society participation in China AIDS programmes over the past two decades.
Methods A desk review was conducted to collect Chinese government policies, project documents and published articles on civil society participation of HIV/AIDS programmes in China over the past two decades. Assessment focused on five aspects: (i) the political environment; (ii) access to financial resources; (iii) the number of CSOs working on HIV/AIDS; (iv) the scope of work; and (v) the impact of CSO involvement on programmes.
Results The number of CSOs specificly working on HIV/AIDS increased from 0 before 1988 to over 400 in 2009. Among a sample of 368 CSOs, 135 (36.7%) were registered. CSOs were primarily supported by international programmes. Government financial support to CSOs has increased from USD248 000 in 2002 to USD1.46 million in 2008. Initially, civil society played a minimal role. It is now widely involved in nearly all aspects of HIV/AIDS-related prevention, treatment and care efforts, and has had a positive impact; for example, increased adherence of anti-retroviral treatment and HIV testing among hard-to-reach groups. The main challenges faced by CSOs include registration, capacity and long-term financial support.
Conclusion CSOs have significantly increased their participation and contribution to HIV/AIDS programmes in China. Policies for registration and financial support to CSOs need to be developed to enable them to play an even greater role in AIDS programmes.
Keywords: Civil society, response, HIV/AIDS, China