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HIV-positive cases estimated at 840,000
By Zhang Feng (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-10-15 06:52

China had 126,808 people who officially reported as HIV-positive at the end of July, according to figures compiled over the past 20 years, but the estimated number of sufferers could be as high as 840,000, the Ministry of Health revealed on Friday.

The total registered number of AIDS patients both alive and dead is 28,789, said Hao Yang, vice-director of the ministry's Disease Control Department.

According to the limited statistics, the ministry knows the names of 7,375 people who have died of AIDS and HIV since 1985, when the country reported its first case.

However, Hao said he still could not exactly tell the reported number of HIV-positive people who are still alive.

The ministry, however, estimates the number of HIV-positive people living in China at 840,000, including 80,000 AIDS patients.

"The estimated number of HIV/AIDS sufferers may increase a lot before this year's World AIDS Day, December 1, when the ministry might release new epidemic information in China," said Wu Zunyou, director of HIV/AIDS Control Centre at the Chinese Centre for Disease Control Prevention.

The July figure represents an increase of 57.5 per cent on the at least 80,000 that the ministry reported in December 2004.

The increase in the number of registered HIV carriers does not mean the epidemic has spread quickly in the past months. It is because places where the epidemic is the most serious have greatly strengthened the monitoring work, Wu said.

For example, in Central China's Henan Province and Southwest China's Yunnan Province, HIV tests have been carried out among at least 600,000 high-risk people in recent years.

Generally speaking, the epidemic is still at a low level in China, though it is serious in some areas, such as Henan, Yunnan, Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region and Southwest China's Sichuan Province, Hao said.

The main causes of HIV/AIDS infection in China are drug abuse, which is very serious in Yunnan; illegal blood sales, which were widespread in Henan in the early 1990s; and unsafe sex.

However, the epidemic affected all 31 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities some years ago, Hao said.

Prevention and control work is at a vital stage now, Hao told China Daily, because "our surveillance statistics indicate that the virus is spreading from the high-risk groups to the general public."

For instance, Yunnan and Xinjiang reported that in some places the HIV infection rate among pregnant women reached 0.6 to 0.8 per cent, Hao said.

Blood tests taken in parts of those two regions for other purposes have indicated an infection rate of 0.2 per cent among the general population.

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