As of the end of 2005, the population officially believed to be living with HIV/AIDS in China was around 650,000, 75,000 AIDS patients included, with an average prevalence of 0.05 percent.
About 70,000 new cases occurred in the same year and about 25,000 people died of the disease across the country.
The above figures were announced at a press conference on the 2005 Update on HIV/AIDS Epidemic and Response in China, a report jointly undertaken by the Chinese Ministry of Health, the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
Overestimation on commercial blood donors before
As Dr. Hendrik Bekedam, WHO representative to China commented at the press conference, the latest assessment is reliable and representative, and gives a more objective evaluation of the situation in China.
Compared to that of 2003, the 2005 estimation is 190, 000 HIV cases lower.
According to Wang Longde, the Chinese vice minister of health, the smaller numbers of HIV cases and AIDS patients estimated this time than in 2003, are mainly due to the overestimation of the number of HIV infections through commercial blood donation in 2003.
Previously there were reports saying that in Henan Province alone, there are several hundred thousand plasma donors infected with HIV. However, after examination on the 280, 000 blood donations in the province, over 20,000 were tested positive, a number far lower than reported and imagined.
Wu Zunyou, director of the National Center for AIDS/STD Control and Prevention of the Chinese Center for Disease Prevention and Control (China CDC), who has been engaged in the investigation, the assessment was conducted in a very down-to-earth manner. After examination in Henan Province, the Ministry of Health sent experts to examine the accuracy and reliability of the statistics through field investigations.
Distribution of people living with HIV and AIDS
As summed up in the assessment, the distribution of Chinese people living with HIV/AIDS is as what follows:
1. There are approximately 288,000 drug takers living with HIV/AIDS, constituting 44.3 percent of the total estimation. Those in the seven provinces and autonomous regions of Yunnan, Xinijang, Guangxi, Guangdong, Guizhou, Sichuan and Hunan account for 89.5 percent of the total cases estimated in this group.
2. Former commercial blood and plasma donors and recipients of blood or blood products through transfusions total 69,000, accounting for 10.7 percent of the total number estimated.
Those in the five provinces of Henan, Hubei, Anhui, Hebei and Shanxi take up 80.4 percent of the total cases nationwide.
3. As 19.6 percent of the total estimated cases, approximately 127,000 sex workers and customers are living with HIV/AIDS.
There are approximately 109, 000 partners of HIV-positive people and members of the general population suffering from HIV/AIDS, making up 10.9 percent of the total.
4. Among the current 75,000 AIDS patients, about 22,000 got contracted through commercial blood and plasma donation and blood transfusion; about 53, 000 of them through drug injection, sex and mother-to-child transmission.
5. 10,000 of the 25, 000 deaths or so occurred among former commercial blood and plasma donors. The estimated 70,000 new cases all year round, which mean 200 cases per day, were mainly among high-risk groups such as drug users, sex workers and their clients, men who have sex with men (MSM) and partners with infected people.
HIV/AIDS still on the rise
Wang Longde said the lower numbers do not mean a positive turn of the HIV/AIDS situation in China.
The assessment reveals that while the overall prevalence remains low in the country, there is high prevalence in certain areas and among key groups. Moreover, the epidemic is spreading from high-risk groups to ordinary people.
He also noted the HIV/AIDS is primarily being transmitted through injection drug use and sex, and the latter has caused sharply increasing HIV cases.
Five characteristics of HIV/AIDS in China
1. Wide spread with significant geographic variation
By the end of November 2005, Henan and Yunnan have each reported over 30, 000 cumulative HIV cases; Guangxi, Xinjiang and Guangdong have each reported over 10, 000.
In Xinjiang, Yunnan and Sichuan, etc., HIV prevalence among injection drug users exceeds 50 percent, while that in Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Inner Mongolia, Liaoning and other provinces remains below five percent.
2. All modes of transmission are found
Drug use and sexual contact are the dominant modes of HIV transmission. The cases are mainly associated with injection drug use or sexual transmission, which account for 48.6 percent and 49.8 percent respectively.
3. AIDS-related deaths serious
Between 2004 and 2005, there was a peak of new cases, in which the number of AIDS deaths accounted for 63.4 percent of the cumulative reported figure across the country.
4. Epidemic spreading from high-risk groups to the general population
HIV is seen spreading from drug users, sex workers and their clients and other high-risk groups to the general population. In some areas of Yunnan, Henan, Xinjiang and other regions, HIV prevalence already exceeds one percent among pregnant women and those taking premarital and clinical HIV testing, reaching the level of generalized epidemic set by UNAIDS.
5. There is potential danger of further spread
National surveillance data indicate that 45.5 percent of injection drug users are sharing syringes and 11 percent drug users are engaged in high-risk sexual activities. Other important factors include mobility of large number of people, increasing risky sexual behavior and rising occurrence of venerable disease.
WHO warns that if not responded through effectual measures, HIV cases in China will amount to 10 million in 2010. As the Chinese Minister of Health Gao Qiang said, the figure will be controlled under 1.5 million.
By People's Daily Online