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People need better AIDS, HIV information
By Wu Chong & He Yan (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-11-26 23:56

While a locally produced vaccine enlightens the battle with AIDS, the lack of proper knowledge on prevention does little to help curb its fast spread in the country.

Though China is at a critical point as the deadly disease is spreading among average people, many Chinese, particularly rural people, are still ignorant about AIDS prevention, according to the Ministry of Health (MOH).

A survey report issued by the MOH on Friday says most Chinese people only have a superficial understanding or misunderstanding about AIDS, which will set back the country's control of the disease.

Conducted in April, the survey covered 3,247 interviewees in domestic urban and rural areas.

Although more than 90 per cent of the interviewees know AIDS is an epidemic disease, only a fraction of them had a complete picture of its potential for infection.

A lot of people could name the three ways of AIDS virus transmission, namely, by blood, sex and maternal ties; however, they were not sure what will not lead to infection, said Mao Qun'an, a senior official with MOH.

With limited knowledge, most people choose to keep away from AIDS patients for fear that they would be infected, said the survey report.

About 59 per cent of the interviewees said they would not work with an HIV-infected colleague.

Jin Ning, a 25-year-old white collar in Beijing, said she would not dine with an AIDS patient even if there was no risk of infection.

He Jing, a college student, said a simple fear of the disease was enough to hold her back from the patient.

The survey also discovered a lack of knowledge of AIDS prevention measures among the public.

Only half of the interviewees were aware of the positive role that condoms play in AIDS prevention.

Less than 40 per cent had the knowledge of how to prevent a maternal infection.

A majority of interviewees were resting assured that AIDS is far away from their life.

However, the facts are reversed.

China reported about 840,000 HIV carriers in 2003, scattered in 31 municipalities, provinces and autonomous regions, according to the Chinese Centre of Disease Control and Prevention.

That figure was three times more than that in 2001, with an annual growth rate of 75 per cent in the last two years.

In Shanghai, another 213 victims of HIV/AIDS were found by November 25, making the total registered victims 1,124, local health officials reported.

The majority of Chinese HIV carriers were infected through blood transfusions.

However, the ratio of sexual infections doubled between 1997 and 2002 and more Chinese infants became directly infected by their mothers.

Experts warned that more than 10 million Chinese will be HIV-positive by 2010, unless effective counter-measures are taken.

Government voice

Vice-Premier Wu Yi urged everyone to work to stop the spread of AIDS on Thursday, according to Xinhua News Agency.

Wu said the spread of HIV/AIDS has brought severe threats to China's economy and society.

On the same day, Chinese Executive Vice-Minister of Health Gao Qiang vowed that China will strengthen surveillance of HIV/AIDS to curb AIDS outbreaks.

So far the country has set up 194 national HIV/AIDS monitoring stations, more than 2,000 HIV screening labs and 49 confirmation labs.

Gao said China will continue to promote a 100 per cent use of condoms in entertainment clubs and methadone maintenance therapy among intravenous drug users.

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