SHANGHAI: AIDS is spreading rapidly among high-risk groups in parts of China and is threatening to become a serious epidemic, said Minister of Health Chen Zhu on Tuesday.
A total of 319,877 people had been registered HIV positive, including 102,323 AIDS patients and 49,845 deaths, as of October 31, according to statistics released on a national AIDS control meeting in Shanghai.
But the actual numbers could be much greater as the statistics only included cases reported by medical facilities.
Another 41,000 to 55,000 people would have contracted the virus within 2009, according to the estimation.
Taking combating HIV/AIDS as a high priority, the government had categorized it "as a strategic issue bearing on economic work and social stability," Chen said.
China had set up the initial form of a mechanism for combating HIV/AIDS that suited China's specific situation and achieved remarkable progress, he said.
The government has been providing free voluntary blood tests, free anti-retroviral treatments for AIDS patients with economic difficulties, free medical advice and treatment for pregnant women and infants, free education for AIDS orphans and governmental care for AIDS patients who lived in poverty.
The central government's funding for AIDS control grew from 390 million yuan (57.1 US dollars) in 2003 to 994 million yuan in 2008 while funding from local governments grew from 100 million yuan to 600 million yuan in the same period, Chen added.
China appreciated and welcomed the support of the international community, Chen said.
"China wish to conquer AIDS with the world by expanding international cooperation, deepening medical reform and exploring advanced technologies," Chen said.
China has 276 AIDS control programs jointly operated with more than 40 foreign governments or international organizations, involving 3.58 billion yuan in fund.
Michel Sidibe, executive director of UNAIDS, said AIDS was a challenge facing the world that demanded full use of the resources at hand.