Number of Estimated HIV/AIDS Cases in China Increases to 700,000, Report Says
The number of estimated HIV/AIDS cases in China has increased to 700,000, according to a report scheduled to be officially released on Saturday by UNAIDS and a committee under China's State Council, the AP/Google.com reports (Sanderson, AP/Google.com, 11/29). The report was based on work carried out by UNAIDS, the Chinese government and the World Health Organization, AFP/Yahoo! News reports (AFP/Yahoo! News, 11/29).
According to the report, there were an estimated 50,000 new HIV cases in 2007, the majority of which occurred among injection drug users and commercial sex workers. "China's HIV epidemic remains one of low prevalence overall, but with pockets of high infection among specific subpopulations," the report said (AP/Google.com, 11/29).
The report found that 44.7% of the new cases occurred through heterosexual sex and that 42% occurred from injection drug use. It also found that 12.2% of cases occurred among men who have sex with men, while 1.1% of cases were through mother-to-child transmission. China's Ministry of Health said there were 223,501 confirmed cases of HIV/AIDS in China last month, compared with 183,733 reported at the same time last year (AFP/Yahoo! News, 11/29).
Heterosexual sex is "now the main route for the spread of AIDS," Health Minister Chen Zhu said, adding that more focus still is needed on marginalized groups, including MSM and IDUs. Chen said that because heterosexual sex is the main transmission route in the country, a routine male circumcision campaign should not be ruled out. "This is a technical question" that Chinese HIV/AIDS "experts will evaluate," Chen said, adding that even "before the AIDS era, some children in China were already being circumcised." According to Chen, "As long as there is evidence" that male circumcision is "effective," he does not think "it would be an issue" (Blanchard, Reuters, 11/29).
Some independent HIV/AIDS advocates said the estimated number of HIV/AIDS cases is highly underestimated. The "actual figures far exceed these official estimates," AIDS advocate Hu Jia said, adding that provincial authorities tend to underreport actual figures to the central government and that third parties have been prohibited from carrying out independent investigations. Hu said the official statistics do not include cases of HIV/AIDS that were caused by unsafe blood transfusions, which have contributed to the spread of HIV in the country. Gao Yaojie, an HIV/AIDS advocate and retired physician who in March visited the U.S. to accept an award for her work in fighting HIV/AIDS, said the practice of selling blood continues despite the government's attempts to eradicate it (AFP/Yahoo! News, 11/29). However, some health experts have said the estimates likely are accurate and reflect a change in the way data are collected (AP/Goolge.com, 11/29).