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Heilongjiang's HIV/AIDS sufferers on the rise
By Li Fangchao (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-11-25 23:50

Northeast China's Heilongjiang Province is facing a sharply growing number of HIV carriers and full-blown AIDS patients in recent years.

Statistics from the Heilongjiang Provincial Health Bureau showed that by the end of October, 56 more HIV carriers and AIDS patients had been detected in the province, which has a population of nearly 40 million.

Altogether 178 infected people have been registered since the province's first AIDS case was discovered in 1993. Twenty people have died of the disease.

However, 104 of those cases have been found since 2002, a dramatic increase of more than 50 per cent.

Although AIDS does not have a high incidence in Heilongjiang at present, potential dangers lurk.

Compared with Central China's Henan Province which is plagued by aids, Heilongjiang has remained virtually untouched by the epidemic.

That, however, may be changing.

"Our surveillance coverage is fairly small and we have difficulty finding them all and curbing the sources of the disease," said Xing Jichun, director of the Disease Control Department of the health bureau.

The infection has already spread to 39 counties across the province.

Only Mudanjiang region in the eastern part of the province has not reported any cases.

"More infected people may be found if a thorough survey is carried out," Xing said.

The province aims to set up county-level AIDS surveillance agencies across the province, said Xing.

However, limited by financial resources, the province has found it difficult to carry out the plan.

Central China's Henan Province launched a large-scale survey in June on people with a history of selling blood and found 20,000 extra HIV carriers.

"To do that, we need a lot of money," said Xing.

The province is now applying for 40 sets of experimental equipment to equip more county-level disease control centres.

And a detailed regulation on providing free consultation, examination and treatment for the infected is on the agenda, Xing said.

Blood transmission is the main culprit behind the spread of HIV/AIDS in the province. It accounts for nearly 60 per cent of the infected.

Sexual intercourse accounts for 16 per cent and intravenous drug use for 6 per cent.

The source of transmission of the remaining 18 per cent is unknown.

With a gender ratio of 3 to 1, males accounts for the larger proportion of the infected.

Most of the infected are youths.

"Before 2002, most AIDS patients were discovered to have a history of drug taking or using prostitutes," said Wu Yuhua from the Virus Research Institute of the Heilongjiang Provincial Disease Prevention and Control Centre.

"But now we see a trend of spreading from the high-risk group to the general population," he said.

"A considerable number of the infected are common people," he said.

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