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HIV infections in check, but more efforts needed

By Wang Xiaoyu | | Updated: 2023-12-01 21:58
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China has succeeded in curbing the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in recent years, and experts have called for strengthening efforts to curb new infections among vulnerable groups and expand access to standardized antiviral therapies across the nation.

Yan Jun, deputy director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said the number of new HIV infections transmitted through injected drug use has been falling gradually over the years, and there have been no reported cases of HIV infections occurring through blood transfusion.

Meanwhile, the rate of mother-to-child HIV transmission, where an infant born to a mother living with HIV ends up contracting the disease, dropped to 3 percent last year, Yan said during an event held on Thursday, on the eve of World AIDS Day on Dec 1.

Awareness about the disease among high-risk groups, such as migrant populations, teenage students and individuals involved in high-risk behavior, has risen to over 90 percent, while both the extent of treatment coverage and the proportion of diagnosed HIV patients with effectively controlled virus levels remain above 90 percent, she added.

Data from the China CDC shows that as of the end of last year, there were about 1.22 million people living with HIV/AIDS in China, with a cumulative death toll of 418,000 since the first case was detected in 1985.

Erasmus Morah, director of the China Office of UNAIDS, the United Nations AIDS program, said that China is committed to the UN goal of ending HIV/AIDS by 2030 and has made great progress in recent years.

"However, China still records approximately 75,000 new infections every year. This is where we need to do much more because if you are not able to close down the gap, no matter how many people you treat, you add more," Morah said during a recent interview.

He said it is vital to identify key groups, including men who have sex with men, and vulnerable populations in major cities, and reduce new infections among them.

Wu Liang, an infectious disease specialist at Beijing Ditan Hospital, which is affiliated with Capital Medical University, noted that over 10,000 HIV-positive patients have received treatment at the hospital — one of the first in China to implement antiviral therapies, and about 60 to 70 percent of the patients were from outside the capital.

Currently, he said, patients newly diagnosed with HIV can receive antiviral therapy within five days of their first visit to the hospital.

"The next step is to promote standardized treatment protocols across the entire nation and enable more patients to access high-quality and effective therapies," he said, adding that Beijing Ditan Hospital has so far trained 1,400 medical professionals at about 150 primary medical institutions.

Li Taisheng, head of the infectious disease department at Peking Union Medical College Hospital, said during an interview with Xinhua News Agency that antiviral drugs available in the domestic market are effective and affordable, and have worked to reduce HIV-related deaths.

However, fresh challenges have emerged in recent years, such as a growing number of elderly patients and cases with drug resistance or multiple comorbidities.

"In addition, some newly infected patients are unwilling to go through screening proactively due to fear of discrimination," he said. "It is necessary to make screening programs more convenient and foster a more friendly environment for HIV patients."

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