South China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region will make more further efforts to stop its rising HIV/AIDS cases this year, according to the autonomous regional health bureau.
Last year, 8,625 new HIV cases were reported, bringing the total number of people infected to 20,604 at the end of 2005, said a source at the annual regional meeting on AIDS prevention held on Thursday.
"Infections through unprotected sex are on the rise, yet intravenous drugs users are still the most vulnerable to the disease," acknowledged Chen Jie, deputy director of the autonomous regional diseases prevention and control center.
To slow the spread of the AIDS virus among drug users, Guangxi plans to increase the number of methadone maintenance therapy clinics from 15 to 23 and free needle exchange sites to 40 by the end of this year, said Gao Feng, director of the local health bureau.
A synthetic narcotic drug, methadone is less addictive than morphine or heroin and is used as a substitute for these drugs in addiction to treatment programs. By the end of 2005, China had built a total of 128 pilot methadone maintenance clinics nationwide.
Gao also said the region would work hard to promote condom use among sex workers and the gay community, and help train medical workers to stop HIV infections through breast feeding and blood transfusions.
Guangxi spent more than 38 million yuan (4.72 billion US dollars) on HIV/AIDS prevention and control last year and nearly all its cities and counties have AIDS monitoring centers.
The region is ranked third to the southwestern province of Yunnan and the central province of Henan, as the region has the most HIV/AIDS sufferers in the country.
The Chinese Ministry of Health said in February this year that the country reported 144,089 HIV carriers by the end of 2005.