CHINA / National

AIDS to cause US$40B in losses to China
Updated: 2006-06-08 08:58

AIDS is likely to cause nearly 40 billion dollars in losses for China's economy over the next five years, mostly because of lost labor as patients die or fall sick, state media has warned.

The economic loss to the total national pool of workers is expected to reach 285.6 billion yuan (36 billion dollars) between 2006 and 2010, the Xinhua news agency reported on Wednesday, citing a senior health ministry official.

Another 16.5 billion yuan is likely to be lost as a result of reduced productivity in the agricultural sector, Xinhua said, quoting ministry statistics.

While in absolute terms the figures seem large, it accounts for less than 0.3 percent of China's expected accumulated gross domestic product for the coming five years.

An estimated 650,000 people had the HIV virus in China at the end of last year, according to a study carried out by the health ministry, the World Health Organization and UNAIDS that was released in January.

The study said there were between 60,000 and 80,000 new HIV/AIDS cases in 2005. An estimated 25,000 people died from AIDS in 2005, 10,000 of whom were poor farmers who sold blood in unsafe government-approved schemes in the 1990s.

The study was the first jointly conducted between the three groups.

UNAIDS said on May 30 as it released its biennial snapshot of the global pandemic that China was emerging from the shadows of AIDS by improving its accounting of the number of cases within the country.

"Not only is more data available, but the analysis of that data has also improved and has allowed us to come to an estimate that we are quite comfortable with," said Peter Ghys, manager of epidemic and impact monitoring at UNAIDS.

Critics had previously feared China could be a black hole in the global prevention and treatment effort, and had accused authorities of failing to acknowledge a spiralling epidemic driven by illicit drug use.