A province in southwest China is to make residents take compulsory HIV tests before marriage -- and will inform prospective spouses of the results -- starting next month.
The test will be offered free of charge and target people in areas of Yunnan province where the AIDS situation is "grave", according to a new regulation on AIDS prevention and control passed by the Yunnan legislature.
The areas listed as "grave" will be determined by local health authorities and announced later, the regulation says.
HIV carriers and AIDS patients will be asked to inform their their spouses or sex partners of the results, or the local disease prevention authorities will do so.
The new regulation will take effect on Jan. 1 2007.
Yunnan, bordering Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar in the south and west and near the notorious "Golden Triangle," has China's worst HIV/AIDS figures.
HIV/AIDS cases have been found in 128 of the province's 129 counties, according to the Provincial Committee of AIDS Prevention and Control.
By the end of September, Yunnan has recorded 47,314 people living with HIV/AIDS, accounting for about a quarter of the national total.
From January to September, 650 pre- and post-natal Yunnan women tested HIV positive, accounting for 0.25 percent of the total. Of the 66,000 people who registered for marriage and took the HIV test, 0.03 percent showed positive.
"The figures are horrible, far higher than the national average," said Zhang Chang'an, director of the office of the committee.
"In a province like Yunnan where AIDS is prevalent, the new regulation can better safeguard the rights of people who are susceptible to HIV infection and will help individuals, families and society," he said.
China's Health Ministry reported last week that the number of people officially reported as HIV infected had risen by 27.5 percent since the beginning of the year, to more than 180,000 at the end of October.
The ministry and the World Health Organization estimate China has about 650,000 people living with HIV/AIDS, including 75,000 who have developed AIDS.