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China's HIV/AIDS cases rise nearly 30%
CHINA'S reported cases of HIV/AIDS jumped almost 30 percent in the first 10 months of the year, with intravenous drug use the biggest source of infection, the Ministry of Health said yesterday.
The hefty rise in reported cases shows that China is doing a better job testing and tracking the disease, said Joel Rehnstrom, coordinator for the UNAIDS China office. But, he said, it also shows "that the epidemic continues to grow in many parts of the country."
Half of the country's drug users still share dirty needles and more than half of sex workers don't use condoms.
The reported number of HIV cases grew more than 28 percent to 183,733 by October 31 this year, up from 144,089 at the end of last year, the health ministry said in a report posted on its Website.
More than a fifth of the reported cases, 40,667, have developed into AIDS, it said. During the same period there were 4,060 AIDS deaths, bringing the total number of reported deaths on China's mainland due to the disease to 12,464 since it was identified in the country in the early 1990s.
"The rise in reported figures of both HIV infections and AIDS patients indicates the situation in China is still serious and there is great danger the disease will spread further," said Hao Yang, deputy director of the health ministry's Bureau of Disease Control.
The representative of the United Nations AIDS program said reported HIV cases have been steadily increasing at a rate of about 30 percent annually since 1999, but with testing programs still inadequate for such a large country, the real number of HIV cases is likely four to five times the reported figure.
The health ministry said in its report that 37 percent of the cases reported this year were linked to drug use and 28 percent to unsafe sex.
Hao said transmission through unprotected sex was increasing, with the infection rate of sex workers rising from 0.02 percent in 1996 to 1 percent in 2005.
Government health surveys showed that fewer than 40 percent of prostitutes use condoms and slightly more than half of all drug addicts still share needles.
"Each new HIV infection is a tragedy," Rehnstrom said. "The 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 injecting drug users and sex workers."
He said government efforts to promote clean needles and methadone treatments were beginning to have an effect but that those programs needed to be expanded.
The ministry said 5.1 percent of the cases were caused by people selling blood illegally or receiving infected blood from hospitals.
China has cracked down harshly on such schemes and declared last year that the problem of tainted blood supplies was under control though new cases still emerge sporadically, often in rural areas.
Xinhua/Shanghai Daily
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