Chicago Tribune Examines Spread of HIV Along Chinese Truck Route
The Chicago Tribune on Sunday examined how an ancient road serving as a main trucking route through southwest China's Yunnan province is "a central artery through which sex, drugs and trade are spreading [HIV] into previously untouched swaths of the population," according to researchers. The 500-mile route illustrates a "timeline of China's struggle with AIDS," as well as how scarce government funding, stigma surrounding the disease and poor access to information are jeopardizing efforts to curb the epidemic. The road begins in Ruili -- where some of the country's first HIV cases were recorded in 1989 and which subsequently became an epicenter of drug use and commercial sex work, the Tribune reports. However, the city -- now the site of condom distribution programs aimed at commercial sex workers and 10 methadone clinics where people can be treated for heroin addiction -- also serves as a symbol of the government's efforts to control the epidemic. In the town of Baoshan, another stop on the truck route, the spread of the virus is fueled primarily by sex work. According to city health authorities, there are roughly 5,000 sex workers in the Baoshan area, where promoting condom use is difficult because of a lack of funds. Baoshan plans to extend the expressway by 50 miles, linking the town to points further south in 2007, which "poses multiple threats," including "an influx of 10,000 mostly male workers, who later will scatter to their home provinces, [providing] a fast new road to boost traffic and speed the transfer of the virus," the Tribune reports. HIV/AIDS advocates are faced with the task of promoting condom use among the workers and drivers in a country where only about 4% of the population uses condoms, according to the Tribune (Osnos, Chicago Tribune, 2/5).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.