The economic losses inflicted on China by AIDS in the next five years are estimated to exceed 300 billion yuan (42.25 billion U.S. dollars), said a renowned AIDS expert in Beijing on Wednesday.
At a conference of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), Zeng Yi, chief scientist with the STD (sexually-transmitted diseases) and AIDS Prevention Center under the Ministry of Health, said the losses of human resources caused by AIDS in China are estimated to reach 285.57 billion yuan from 2006 to 2010.
Citing the calculation of economist Li Jingwen, another CAS member, Zeng said the disease will also cause a loss of 16.45 billion yuan to the productivity and GDP in the agricultural sector.
China's Ministry of Health estimated that there are about 650,000 HIV/AIDS cases in China, including 75,000 AIDS patients. The number of Chinese newly infected with HIV/AIDS was around 70,000 in 2005, and 25,000 Chinese died of AIDS last year.
Among China's HIV/AIDS cases, 49.8 percent were transmitted by unsafe sex, 48.6 percent by drug injection, and 1.6 percent from mothers to babies, Zeng said.
He said among China's drug addicts, 288,000 were found to be infected with HIV or AIDS. The situation is serious in Yunnan, Xinjiang, Guangxi, Guangdong, Guizhou, Sichuan and Hunan, where the number of HIV/AIDS infected people exceeds 10,000 in each province or autonomous region.
The figure of the seven provinces and autonomous regions made up 89.5 percent of the national total in the group of drug addicts, said Zeng, adding that the rate of HIV/AIDS infection among drug addicts in China increased from 1.95 percent in 1996 to 6.48 percent in 2004.
HIV/AIDS infection through blood transfusion was serious in Henan, Hubei, Anhui, Hebei and Shanxi provinces. But the situation has been relatively put under control since 1996, as the government has stepped up efforts to control selling of blood in recent years, said the scientist.
In addition, about 127,000 HIV/AIDS infected people were found among prostitutes and prostitute's clients, Zeng said.
Statistics also show that the number of women infected with HIV/AIDS in China is climbing. The male to female ratio has altered dramatically from 5:1 in the 1990s to the current 2:1, even 1:1 in some areas, according to the scientist.
The 100-million migrant population in China, most of which are young and middle-aged people, increases the difficulty of preventing the transmission of the virus, said Zeng.
To cope with the serious situation, the scientist urged to step up research on an AIDS vaccine and push forward the clinical test of the vaccine in the next five years.
China aims to complete the third phase clinical test of the AIDS vaccine, which will conclusively prove the effect of the vaccine, by 2010, according to the scientist.
However, Zeng said lack of investment is one of the major problems in China's research and development of the AIDS vaccine at present.
He estimated that the research will cost one billion yuan (125 million U.S. dollars) over the next five years.
He called for the establishment of a national fund to develop the AIDS vaccine and efforts to attract investment from local governments and enterprises.
The researchers and resources for the development of the AIDS vaccine should be integrated and a complete research and development system from lab study to clinical testing should be formed, said Zeng.
Some progress has been made by China in the development of AIDS vaccine. The STD and AIDS Prevention Center is cooperating with a European research organ to develop an AIDS vaccine. The result of the first phase clinical test showed that the vaccine is safe, said Zeng.
The vaccine developed by a Sino-U.S. joint research project was put into first phase clinical test in March 2005, and the result of the test is still unknown, Zeng said.
However, Zeng said China still lags behind many other countries in the development of the AIDS vaccine. There are more than 120 AIDS vaccines under clinical testing worldwide, while China has only two.