As HIV/AIDS continues to spread despite years of Chinese efforts to control it, health experts have called for reducing unprotected sexual behavior and pushing for higher condom use as "the final defense against AIDS".
At the Aug. 15-16 Initiative and Training Workshop for Population and Family Planning Sectors in Global Fund HIV/AIDS Program Areas held in central China's Henan Province, Wan Shaoping, official with the Sino-UK venereal disease and HIV/AIDS program, said that sexual transmission has become a major channel for HIV to spread from high-risk groups such as sex workers and drug users to the general public.
Official statistics show that among China's 840,000 people living with HIV/AIDS, 45 percent get infected through drug injection,25 percent through blood transfusions and 30 percent through unsafe sex, a factor which has been rising steadily.
"Condom use has become the final and most important defense against AIDS," Wan said.
Zhao Pengfei, program officer with the World Health Organization (WHO) China office, said that sexual transmission will become the main mode of HIV transmission in most Asian countries, with the majority of new cases linked to prostitution.
WHO figures indicate that over 80 percent of HIV-infected people around the world are found to have unprotected sex.
Health experts called for carrying out more "100 percent" condom use programs (CUP) in China, which advocate 100 percent condom use when sex workers offer services, when having sexual encounters and at all places related to commercial sex services.
According to figures of UNAIDS, the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS, failure to adopt effective intervention measures would cause two million people to get infected every year by 2010, a figure which could otherwise drop to below 500,000.
China is carrying out "100 percent" CUPs in provinces such as Hubei, Yunnan and Jiangsu and planning to cover other regions like Fujian and Beijing. Such measures, carrying the slogan "No Condom, No Sex," are designed to ensure condom provision in sites with sex workers.
Revising the 2002-2006 action plan on restraining, preventing and treating HIV/AIDS, the country is trying to meet the objective having an over 80 percent condom use rate in high-risk groups by the end of 2006.
But despite carrying out "100 percent" CUPs, Zhao said China still faces many challenges. It is estimated that 80 percent of people infected with HIV in China do not know it. China has over one million intravenous drug users and gays, and an uneducated "floating" population in the tens of millions.
Furthermore, many Chinese teenagers lack awareness of the importance of safe sex.
In addition, certain local authorities' failure to understand the importance of HIV/AIDS prevention, ineffective multi-sectoral coordination, low social participation and the issue of how to ensure condom quality and reasonable pricing are also obstacles in the campaign against HIV/AIDS.
"The key to an adequate AIDS response in China lies in three changes: from policy to action, from pilots to scaling-up program implementation and from health response to societal involvement," Zhao said.