Chinese Government Increases HIV Estimates, Says 850,000 InfectedChinese officials announced yesterday that they believe 850,000 people in the country have HIV and that 200,000 of them have developed AIDS, the New York Times reports (Rosenthal, New York Times, 4/12). The new HIV estimates are an increase of more than 250,000 over last year's figures, which stated that 600,000 Chinese were thought to have HIV. The government also announced that China has officially recorded 30,736 cases of HIV. Of those cases, 1,594 are classified as having AIDS, and 684 people have died of AIDS-related causes (Reuters, 4/11). Officials said that 68% of confirmed infections are due to intravenous drug use, 7.2% are due to unprotected sex, and unsafe practices by blood-buying companies accounted for 9.7% of infections (New York Times, 4/12). The government estimates that at least 100,000 people in Henan province were infected with HIV by selling their blood between the mid-1980s and the mid-1990s, but outside estimates place the number as high as 500,000 people.
More to Come
The official estimate of 850,000 HIV cases is a significant increase over previous estimates, but it is still well below the estimate of the United Nations, which believes that as many as 1.5 million Chinese may be HIV-positive (Agence France-Presse, 4/11). Health experts warn that China has "all the conditions for a massive AIDS epidemic" -- including a mobile population, widespread prostitution and rising "promiscuity" among young people -- and could have an epidemic on the scale of sub-Saharan Africa's if preventive measures are not implemented soon. The United Nations estimates that as many as 10 million Chinese may be HIV-positive by the end of the decade (Reuters, 4/11).
Gay Community Presents 'Challenges'
The New York Times reports today that China's "increasingly open atmosphere" surrounding its gay communities is creating "unique challenges" for AIDS prevention. According to the Times, doctors have conducted little research into this "poorly defined high-risk group," as many gay men in China are "still unclear about their sexuality" and often have relationships with both men and women. Although there are almost "no statistics" on AIDS among gay men in China, a sample from Beijing and Shenzhen suggest that rates may be as high as 5% to 10%. "AIDS education is very complicated among gays in China because the group of men who have sex with men overlaps considerably with the heterosexual community," Chung To, who runs a foundation to educate gays about HIV/AIDS, said. Chung uses his own money to distribute sex education material and condoms at gay night clubs (Rosenthal, New York Times, 4/12).