Number of Reported HIV/AIDS Cases in China Increased 28% in 2006, Health Ministry Says
The number of reported HIV/AIDS cases in China increased by 28% in the first 10 months of 2006, and the virus appears to be spreading to a broader population, China's Ministry of Health said Wednesday in a report posted on its Web site, Reuters reports (Reuters, 11/21). According to the Ministry, the number of reported HIV cases has increased 28%, from 144,089 in December 2005 to 183,733 on Oct. 31 (Olesen, AP/International Herald Tribune, 11/22). However, health experts from the United Nations and the Chinese health ministry estimate that the undocumented number of HIV/AIDS cases could be as high as 650,000. According to the report, injection drug use accounted for 37% of the new HIV/AIDS cases, unprotected sexual contact accounted for 28%, contaminated blood from hospitals being sold illegally accounted for 5.1% and mother-to-child HIV transmission accounted for 1% (Reuters, 11/21). In addition, the report found that commercial sex workers accounted for 1% of new HIV/AIDS cases, and 1% to 4% of new cases occurred among men who have sex with men (Feng, China Daily, 11/22). The report did not state what caused the remaining 28.5% of new cases, the AP/Tribune reports (AP/International Herald Tribune, 11/22).
Hao Yang, deputy director of the Ministry's Disease Control Bureau, said the "clearest evidence" that the disease is spreading from high-risk groups to a broader population is the increase in the number of HIV cases among pregnant women (Reuters, 11/21). According to Joel Rehnstrom, coordinator for the UNAIDS China office, the increase in reported HIV/AIDS cases reveals that China is doing a better job tracking and testing for the disease, but it also shows "that the epidemic continues to grow in many parts of the country." The Chinese government "needs to focus its efforts on ... trying to stop the spread of HIV and to trying to bring the spread of HIV under control as soon as possible by controlling HIV transmission among injection drug users and sex workers," Rehnstrom said. He added that government efforts to promote clean needles and methadone treatments are beginning to have an effect but need to be expanded (AP/International Herald Tribune, 11/22). According to China Daily, the government has launched a "concerted effort" to prevent and control the spread of HIV -- including providing no-cost HIV testing, no-cost antiretroviral drugs and no-cost education to children affected by the disease -- which has helped to identify more cases (China Daily, 11/22).