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HIV in China E-mail
City Life - Blogs & Columns
Written by Mia Duncan
A Growing problem. As many people know, December 1st is International AIDS awareness day. So as a way of preparing for that day I have decided to write about the latest AIDS statistics relating to China. Right now there are an estimated 650,000 people living with HIV in China, with many more unaware that they have been infected. This year saw a 30% increase in the number of new cases reported. According to the Ministry Of Health there were 183,733 new-recorded victims of this virus.

Should we start to panic here? Should we worry? Well the answer is both yes and no. First we should look at the history of the epidemic in China. Back in the mid 1980's the sale of blood was very common and a popular way of making money. Many people living in the rural areas were so poor that they would sell their blood for what was at that time, a more than reasonable price. This blood went unchecked and was often contaminated with other viruses besides HIV.

This blood was then sold cheaply to hospitals and clinics for treating patients who had undergone surgery or had been in need of an emergency transfusion. You do not have to imagine the consequence of this practice. Within a decade the spread of HIV became an uncontrollable force in China.

Another factor here must be the unwillingness of the Chinese officials to openly discuss “alternative” sexual behavior. The government actively shamed people from taking part in “Abnormal” acts and often issued miss-information and negative scare tactics as a means to turn them around. Ironically one of the largest risk groups in China are not Homosexuals, but drug addicts who are still sharing needles with many other users.

The other problem here rests with the propaganda surrounding AIDS in Western countries. I have been asked on numerous occasions if I know anyone with AIDS and I have even been asked if I have it myself! The Chinese media and scare tactics have caused many people to become afraid and confused over this issue.

It is interesting to note that as a foreigner I must undergo regular HIV tests so that I can remain here in China, whereas locals are not screened in any way! New recruits joining the People Army must now undergo an AIDS test before being accepted, so there are at least some changes being made.

But is it enough?

Three years ago the Chinese media took the big step of making a public information film about the misconceptions surrounding HIV and AIDS, by using famous singers and actors, this short musical video tried to remove the stigma surrounding the illness. Sadly the message was lost within the over clever editing and the use of egotistical Chinese stars which only distracted people away from the real issue in hand, but did succeed in putting money into each of their pockets!

The bottom line is that China will have to start being more open when it comes to discussing alternative lifestyles. Drug abuse is a big problem in China, but it is hardly mentioned in the mainstream media. There are many young Gay men in China who right now feel confused and afraid. Ignorance will not make this problem go away. Scaring people will not stop them from living the life they choose. It's time for some straight talking before this problem gets out of hand. There is still time to make a difference.

Some numbers of note

“Data show that 40 percent of new HIV infections diagnosed in China were acquired through heterosexual contact, with homosexual sex accounting for 32 percent, and most of the remainder related to drug abuse…”

“…China’s health minister, Chen Zhu, reported that as of the end of October, the number of Chinese confirmed to be living with HIV-AIDS was 319,877, up from 264,302 last year and 135,630 reported in 2005. But Chen said the actual level of infections is probably near 740,000…”

”..HIV’s spread has been accelerated by China’s thriving sex industry: about 37 million men are estimated to be clients of female sex workers, and surveys show that 60 percent do not regularly use condoms, the UNAIDS report said. Such factors contributed to a doubling in women’s share of HIV cases in China in the past decade…”

More Information about HIV/AIDS in China

An HIV/AIDS pandemic exists in territories controlled by the People's Republic of China (PRC). Much of the current spread of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in the PRC has been through intravenous drug use and prostitution. In the PRC, the number of people affected by HIV has been estimated at between 430,000 and 1.5 million,  with some estimates going much higher. In many rural areas of China during the 1990s, particularly in the province of Henan, tens to hundreds of thousands of farmers and peasants were infected with HIV through participation in state-run blood collection programs in which contaminated equipment was reused.

The PRC is not yet near what many would consider a widespread AIDS epidemic, but the infection rate (incidence) has been rising sharply, and a serious outbreak in a country as large as the PRC could significantly impact the economies of both China and the world as a whole. The underlying government response to HIV/AIDS is now that of preemptive intervention.

An official report published in February 2009 stated that in 2008, for the first time, HIV/AIDS was China's leading cause of death among infectious diseases. Nearly 7,000 people died from the disorder in the first nine months of 2008, a substantial increase—until three years prior to this, the total cumulative mortality was less than 8,000. Click here to learn more.

Our valuable Editor Mia Duncan has been with us since Wednesday, 21 July 2010.

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