Chinese Men Who Have Sex With Men Could Spread HIV to Low-Risk Women, Study Says
Chinese men who have sex with men could serve as a "sexual bridge" for HIV infection between high-risk men and low-risk women, according to a study published in the June 21 issue of the Lancet, Agence France-Presse reports (Agence France-Presse, 6/19). Researchers at the Center for AIDS Prevention Studies at the University of California-San Francisco recruited 481 MSMs from bars, parks and bath houses in Beijing between September 2001 and January 2002 to participate in the study. Fifteen of the men tested positive for HIV, 238 reported having unprotected sex with a man in the past six months and 107 reported having unprotected anal or vaginal sex with a woman in the same period, according to the study. HIV prevalence was 4.5 times higher in men over age 39 than in men ages 39 and younger, and 64% of the men over age 39 reported being married to a woman, compared with 11% of men ages 39 and younger. The researchers concluded that there is a "low but significant" HIV risk in MSM in Beijing and that HIV infection rates among the population will continue to rise unless prevention measures are put in place.
Pattern Similar to Other Asian Countries
MSM who also have sex with women could lead to the spread of HIV to sexually active heterosexuals, "a pattern [that] has been seen in other Asian countries, notably India," according to the study. HIV prevalence for the approximately two to eight million MSM in China is unknown because China's national HIV/AIDS sentinel surveillance is restricted to drug users, female sex workers, truck drivers, pregnant women and individuals with STDs, according to the study (Choi et al., Lancet, 6/21). Although most HIV infections in China currently occur in injection drug users, sex workers and plasma donors, the "threat" of MSM spreading the disease through unprotected sex both to other MSM and women has been "overlooked," according to Agence France-Presse. In December 2001, China had approximately 800,000 to 1.5 million reported HIV cases, according to officials, and that figure could reach 10 million by 2010, according to the United Nations. The United Nations has warned that China could face a "catastrophe (involving) unimaginable human suffering" if steps to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS are not put in place (Agence France-Presse, 6/19).