Experts Warn of Rising AIDS Epidemic in China despite Record Drops

AIDS epidemic in China remains as a worrying trend although report shows that the total number of infection till last year appears to be lower then expected, experts say.
( [email protected] ) Jan 31, 2006 02:58 PM EST

AIDS epidemic in China remains as a worrying trend although report shows that the total number of infection till last year appears to be lower then expected, experts say.

In the report released Friday by the Chinese Ministry of Health, the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS and the World Health Organization (WHO), it is estimated that around 70,000 new HIV cases are found in China every year, according to the press statement from the United Nations (UN).

The study also revealed that the number of known cases in China was 650,000 till now, down from a government estimate in 2003 of 840,000, officials told the press conference, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported.

Despite the drop in the record of HIV/AIDS inflections in 2005, experts warn that the AIDS epidemic is actually growing in China.

"Make no mistake, China's AIDS epidemic is growing," the WHO's chief representative in China, Hank Bekedam told AFP on a press conference. "With an estimated 70,000 new infections in 2005, the epidemic here shows no signs of abating."

"We fear the number of infections this year will be even higher and this trend could continue in the future," he added.

According to the UN press statement, the report said that approximately 80 percent of all HIV infections were related to injecting drug use and commercial sex. The epidemic was equally or more serious than previously thought in all parts of the country, except in central China where HIV transmission in connection with the sale of blood may have been overestimated in the past.

The spread of AIDS epidemic should be halted immediately through further scaling up of HIV prevention, treatment and care programs across the country, the report suggested.

Currently, Amity Foundation- a Christian-based Chinese voluntary organization- is one of the few Christian organizations that mobilize HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment in Mainland China. Amity Foundation works closely with the government-sanctioned Three Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM) of the Protestant Churches in China/ China Christian Council (CCC) and offers various programs in some provinces that are seriously affected by HIV/AIDS.

The Micro-credit Project aims to help those families living with HIV/AIDS to rebuild their lives. To each family, Amity provides a loan of CNY 2,000 (USD 240) with which they can pursue income-generation activities fitting in with and making use of local resources. They are required to pay back the loan within two years so that the money can go towards supporting other families in need.

Prevention is better than cure. Many poor citizens or people from the grassroots in rural area of China are lack of education on HIV/AIDS prevention. In Central region, countless farmers went to sell their blood in order to reduce their poverty and they were found to be infected with HIV through this blood selling.

Amity has begun with a three-year AIDS prevention education program in Yunnan province in 1996 in a bid to popularize AIDS prevention knowledge and help local communities eliminate stigma and discrimination. The HIV/AIDS prevention and public awareness education program has been extended to Guangxi, Hunan and Henan in 2000.

According to the latest progress report from the Amity Foundation, 34 courses were held between May to October 2004 for church leaders, lay workers and church volunteers in Yunnan and Henan provinces. And they passed down what they have learned to their communities.