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New HIV/AIDS cases surge in Beijing
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08:32, July 10, 2009

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Beijing reported 501 new HIV/AIDS cases in the first five months this year, an 21.9 percent increase over the same period last year, local health officials said yesterday.

Among the new cases, 44 percent were male homosexuals, said Deng Ying, director of the Beijing Disease Control and Prevention Center.

As a group, homosexuals accounted for the highest infection rate, and the rate is continuing to rise, Deng said.

Beijing has so far reported 6,383 HIV/AIDS cases, including 1,343 locals, 4,722 from other domestic provinces and 247 foreigners.

Among the new cases, 68 percent were by sexual transmission, and nearly 12 percent were caused by intravenous drug use.

Nationwide, sexual transmission had overtaken intravenous drug use to become the leading cause for HIV/AIDS infection.

According to Deng, China had 276,000 HIV-positive patients at the end of last year, including an estimated 82,000 who had developed AIDS.

However, according to estimates from the United Nations Joint Programm on HIV/AIDS, China now has 700,000 people living with HIV/AIDS.

New cases of HIV/AIDS by sexual transmission have outnumbered those by intravenous drug use since 2006, indicating the deadly disease no longer just affects high-risk groups, Deng added.

Data suggested that HIV infection among homosexuals has been growing since the city began monitoring the gay community in 2004. The infection rate among the gay community is higher than among those involved in unprotected heterosexual sex, said the official.

"We need more intervention among the gay community, especially to encourage them to use condoms," said Shao Yiming, chief expert for the National Center for AIDS/STD Control and Prevention.

The first case of HIV/AIDS was reported in Beijing in 1985.

The country provides free HIV/AIDS testing services. Beijing tested 5,503 people during the first five months this year, with 141 being confirmed as HIV positive.

Currently, all hotels three-star and above provide condoms. Nearly 2,000 automatic vending machines for condoms have been installed at dance halls, clubs and bars in the city. The city also established 22,000 sites for distributing free condoms.

Condom use, methadone treatment and needle exchange remain three major tools to battle the illness, he added.

"We have greatly intensified monitoring and testing efforts on high-risk groups in recent years," Shao told China Daily. "More HIV/AIDS cases will be confirmed with improved monitoring and testing efficiency."

Source: China Daily

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