Yunnan plans HIV tests before marriage

Updated: 2006-12-03 10:30

Officials in China's worst hit AIDS province plan compulsory pre-marital HIV tests as part of a series of tough measures to stem the spread of the fatal virus, state media has said.

Yunnan province, in the nation's southwestern border region with the opium-producing Golden Triangle, will start implementing the measures from January 1, 2007, the Xinhua news agency reported.

"The year 2007 is crucial in our effort to contain AIDS," Zhang Chang'an, director of the provincial AIDS control office, told Xinhua.

"The province will do anything in its power to live up to its promise of containing the spread of AIDS."

The new rules also oblige people diagnosed with HIV to immediately tell their spouses or partners.

"If they don't, the local disease control department has the authority to do it for them," Xinhua said, citing the rules.

Yunnan, a major transit point for drug trade in the region, is now home to one quarter of China's officially reported HIV cases.

The province had 40,157 HIV sufferers at the end of last year, up sharply from 14,905 two years earlier, according to official statistics.

The drastic increase is likely to partly reflect the fact that China's AIDS statistics severely underestimate the true extent of the problem, and official data are now gradually catching up with reality.

China's health ministry has said 183,733 people were confirmed with HIV/AIDS at the end of October, a 27.5 percent rise from the end of last year.

The number of confirmed cases is significantly lower than the estimate of 650,000 put forward jointly by the government and United Nations health agencies in January.

But Wan Yanhai, a prominent AIDS activist, has estimated the true number could even be 10 times higher than 650,000, based on research by an awareness group he heads, the Beijing Aizhixing Institute.

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