Estimated Number of HIV-Positive People in China Is 650,000, According to Report by China’s Health Ministry, WHO, UNAIDS
The number of HIV-positive people in China is an estimated 650,000 in 2005, 30% lower than the country's previous estimate, according to a report released on Wednesday by China's Ministry of Health, the World Health Organization and UNAIDS, Reuters reports (Reuters, 1/25). According to the report, 2003 estimates said that the number of HIV-positive people in China was 840,000, but current estimates say that 650,000 HIV-positive people live in the country, and 75,000 of those people have developed AIDS. The report also estimates that in 2005 there were 70,000 new cases of HIV and 25,000 AIDS-related deaths. The country's current HIV/AIDS prevalence is approximately 0.05%, the report says (China's Ministry of Health/WHO/UNAIDS, "2005 Update on the HIV/AIDS Epidemic and Response in China," 1/24). In some areas of Henan and the far-western border of Yunnan and Xinjiang, HIV prevalence among pregnant women is more than 1%, Reuters reports (Reuters, 1/25). Of the total number of HIV/AIDS cases in China, 80% are associated with injection drug use and commercial sex work, the Wall Street Journal reports (Oster, Wall Street Journal, 1/25). According to the Kyodo News, the new case load estimates have reduced the United Nation's prediction of the number of HIV-positive people that will be living in China by 2010 from 10 million to approximately 1.5 million (Kyodo News, 1/25). Wang Longde, China's vice minister of health, said the current case-load estimates are lower because China conducted a survey in 2004 that found the number of people who contracted HIV through illegal blood sales was lower than previously predicted in 2003 (Xinhuanet, 1/25). According to experts, another reason for the lower estimates could be the country's improved data collection capabilities (Reuters, 1/24).
In a release, WHO and UNAIDS pointed out that the estimates do not indicate that HIV prevalence is decreasing in China (WHO release, 1/25). Joel Rehnstrom, China's country coordinator for UNAIDS, said, "We're getting a better picture of the AIDS situation in China, but that doesn't mean that the situation is improving." Rehnstrom added, "The epidemic therefore is equally or more serious than previously thought pretty much all over China" (Reuters, 1/24). The report highlights potential responses to China's HIV/AIDS epidemic, which include strengthening training for prevention, treatment and care; increasing the distribution of antiretrovirals to patients in rural areas or low-income patients in urban areas; expanding testing and education of high-risk groups; and improving the country's monitoring system ("2005 Update on the HIV/AIDS Epidemic and Response in China," 1/24). Hank Bekedam, WHO's representative to China, said new prevention programs should be implemented as soon as possible, adding, "There is no room for complacency and there is no time to waste" (Agence France-Presse, 1/25). According to the Journal, the number of new infections in the country has increased 10%, which is similar to growth rates in India and Russia -- two countries that health experts say could experience rapidly growing epidemics (Wall Street Journal, 1/25).