Low Levels of AIDS Awareness Among Sex Workers, Intravenous Drug Users Facilitates HIV Spread Into China’s General Population
The spread of HIV in China is moving "at a breakneck pace," as a lack of information about the disease among China's citizens contributed last year to a 67% increase in the number of reported AIDS cases over 2000, the New York Times reports. According to a study conducted a year ago by the State Family Planning Commission, 20% of Chinese in 12 counties had never heard of AIDS and only 50% of those people knew that the virus can be transmitted through sex. The spread of HIV from high-risk groups such as sex workers and intravenous drug users into the general population is facilitated by sexual transmission, as "huge number[s]" of poor young women work in a "large and amorphous sex industry." Over the past two decades, China has experienced a "resurgence" of prostitution -- which had been "virtually eliminated" by former leader Mao Tse-tung -- among businessmen, local officials and long-haul truckers. Recent studies by Chinese researchers show that HIV rates are rising among sex workers, up to 10% in some cities, and that the women have low levels of awareness about HIV and condom use. Although many HIV education programs target sex workers, Professor Pan Cuiming, a sociology professor at Beijing's People's University, said that the men who visit the sex workers should also be targeted. "The government always wants to say AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases are from prostitutes ... [b]ut most of these girls are just poor children -- they are victims -- they didn't have diseases when they started," Pan said. China's Family Planning Commission plans to offer AIDS education at all of its clinics this year, but local resistance and lack of financing could prevent the educational programs in some locations. "We realize that now is the final chance for China to control HIV/AIDS at low expense," Family Planning Commission's Dr. Zhao Baige, who has "pressed for more aggressive education," said (Rosenthal, New York Times, 12/30).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.