The number of people diagnosed with HIV/AIDS in Shaanxi has increased sharply, putting officials and experts in the northwest inland province on high alert.
Sixty-nine HIV positive people were reported between January and September, one and half times the number reported last year. Senior provincial officials warned that the effects of the illness could seriously threaten the province.
"Shaanxi has had reports of AIDS in all of its 10 prefectures, showing a severe situation in prevention and control," said Fan Bing, deputy director of the Shaanxi Provincial Health Bureau.
According to local departments' statistics, Shaanxi has a total of 263 people with HIV, of whom 97 have AIDS, while 45 had died by the end of September.
Among those with HIV, 145 were local residents while the rest are migrant workers. They lived mainly in the provincial capital of Xi'an and Shangluo in southern Shaanxi.
"Though cases of AIDS in the whole province are at a relatively low level at present, there are signs of growth," the deputy public health director said.
Since the first person with AIDS was reported in 1992, a total of 40 HIV positive people have been identified in Xi'an. Among them, 12 developed AIDS and six have died, Fan said.
At present, the government estimates that there are about 840,000 HIV positive people in China. Some 240,000 people have died, bringing the total number to about 1 million.
"Compared with other provinces and regions, Shaanxi still has relatively few HIV positive people. However, the number has increased rapidly in the last three years, making up 78 percent of the total number found in the past 14 years," Fan said.
Fan said the local government has paid a lot of attention to the situation and is taking measures to further enhance prevention efforts by spreading awareness amongst the public and those most likely to be exposed.
Faced with growing problems, experts plan to develop regulations on AIDS prevention and control as soon as possible.
"There is no special law on AIDS prevention and control in China at present, and current relevant regulations are inadequate, failing to meet prevention and control needs," said Chen Youmo, a local prevention and control expert.
Meanwhile, AIDS in the country is at a key stage, threatening to move from so-called 'high-risk groups' to the general population, said Chen.
(China Daily November 23, 2004)