According to a survey conducted last year, a mere 8.7 percent of the people in China know their ABCs about AIDS transmission and prevention.
Jointly conducted by the Horizon Group and the Futures Group Europe, the survey including a random sampling of urbanites in seven large and medium-sized cities, including Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, and residents of small towns and villages in seven provinces.
Respondents were asked basic true-false questions about routes of transmission, including whether the virus can be passed from mothers to their unborn babies, through breastfeeding, via blood transfusion or by dining with an AIDS patient.
They were also asked whether the infection rate can be lowered by maintaining a monogamous relationship with an AIDS-free partner, by abstinence from sex or by using condoms during sexual intercourse.
Concerning major channels of transmission, 25.6 percent of the respondents offered correct answers to all four questions, while 21.4 percent responded accurately to the three questions on ways to prevent AIDS.
Only 8.7 percent gave correct answers to all the seven questions.
About 96.2 percent of the city dwellers had heard about AIDS, much higher than the 82.6 percent of small-town people and the 75.1 percent of rural villagers.
For small town residents, overall knowledge about the disease in 2003 remained level with that of 2002, although awareness of its existence inched slightly higher.
Villagers reported the least awareness of the role of condoms in AIDS prevention. While 17 percent of urbanites realized that using condoms can help prevent the spread of the virus, only 11.4 percent of small town residents and a mere 5.8 percent of villagers possessed this knowledge.
Social acceptance of HIV/AIDS sufferers declined from the previous year, the survey showed.
Only 33.9 percent of urbanites and 19 percent of small-town residents said that they could treat HIV/AIDS victims equally at work, down 7.1 percent and 12 percent respectively from the previous year.
Just 57.2 percent of urbanites and 45.0 percent of small-town residents would be willing to care for their own HIV-positive family members, declines of 10.8 percent and 18 percent from 2002.
Unsurprisingly, 57.2 percent of urbanites and 63.0 percent of small-town residents hope to keep it a secret if a family member comes down with AIDS, dropping slightly from a year earlier.
While knowledge concerning HIV/AIDS has grown noticeably among higher officials in recent years, it is still clearly lacking among the general public.
The AIDS virus in China is already spreading outside such high-risk groups as intravenous drugs users.
The Ministry of Health announced last April that the government would give free, anonymous testing and counseling to needy HIV carriers.
Central China's Hubei and Henan provinces have pledged to offer free AIDS medication to all HIV carriers. They have also dispatched officials to areas most seriously hit by the epidemic.
The government also promised early this month to provide free condoms to all sufferers of HIV/AIDS.
(Xinhua News Agency August 10, 2004)