China's Free ART Program was initiated in 2002 as an emergency response to save and improve the lives of AIDS patients living mainly in impoverished rural regions of central China. With little experience in HIV/AIDS treatment and care and resource limitations, China's efforts to provide widespread access to free antiretroviral therapy has been a process fraught with difficulty. However, the Free ART Program is progressing from an emergency response to a standardized treatment and care system. The development of national guidelines, training programs, a laboratory support network, a national patient database, programs for special populations such as children and patients living with co-infections, and operational research has improved the scope and quality of the free treatment program. As of June 30, 2005, a total of 19,456 patients in 28 provinces, autonomous regions, and special municipalities had received free ART. Challenges stemming from the nature of China's health system and patient population persist, but with strong government support and a diverse set of resources, China has the capacity to overcome these challenges and to provide nationwide access to high quality treatment and care.