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New Survey Tracks Spread of HIV/AIDS in China

China has obtained its most accurate estimates yet of the spread of HIV/AIDS across the country by adopting international survey standards for the first time, health officials have said. 

Hao Yang, division chief of the Disease Control Department of the Ministry of Health, said 840,000 people in China were believed to have HIV, including 80,000 with full-blown AIDS, based on a joint survey conducted by the Ministry of Health, World Health Organization (WHO) and the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).

Using the WHO and UNAIDS survey approach, health authorities have sampled 100,000 people in seven groups, including high-risk sectors of the population such as intravenous drug users, homosexuals, prostitutes, people selling blood on the black market, and men with sexually-transmitted diseases.

The population estimate is extrapolated from the percentage of people infected among those sampled in different groups.

It is the first time China has investigated the HIV/AIDS epidemic according to international standards and methods, Hao said on the eve of World AIDS Day, which falls today.

Health officials in China admitted it was difficult to identify all HIV/AIDS sufferers.

Experts once estimated one million Chinese people had contracted HIV/AIDS between 1985 and June 2003.

But little more than 40,000 HIV/AIDS sufferers have officially registered with health authorities.

And only 5,000 AIDS patients have been reached and given anti-viral medication provided by governments this year, according to Hao.

In another development, the Shanghai Health Administration said on Friday the number of AIDS-infected people in the city this year rose slightly compared with last year.

As of Wednesday last week, 170 people had been identified as infected by HIV, up 6.25 per cent on last year's figure. Shanghai now has 886 AIDS-infected people.

Vice-minister of Health Gao Qiang said in September that China will provide free medicine to low-income HIV/AIDS sufferers and those in remote areas.

Last year, the central government began to invest about 122 million yuan (US$14.8 million) annually in HIV/AIDS prevention and control. And total spending across local governments is now 200 million yuan (US$24 million) a year.

In China, an AIDS patient must pay about 4,000 yuan (US$482) a year to receive basic treatment.

Ray Yip, director of the Global AIDS Program in China for the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States, told China Daily more needed to be spent on HIV/AIDS treatment and education to persuade more sufferers to seek help, limiting the spread of the disease.

(People's Daily December 1, 2003)

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