In an effort to establish HIV prevalence in China the Ministry of Health urged local governments on Wednesday to survey those who had sold their blood in the 1990s. The research is to be completed by April 15, 2005.
This came on the same day United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan highlighted China's role in combating HIV/AIDS, saying that the world is counting on China to meet Millennium Development Goals which include halting and reversing the spread of HIV/AIDS by 2015.
Thousands of people, mostly farmers, in dozens of provinces including Henan and Anhui sold blood before the introduction of routine HIV screening in 1997 and the ensuing crackdowns on illegal blood stations. Ministry spokesman Mao Qun'an said that many became infected and have since developed AIDS.
Twenty percent of China's estimated 840,000 people with HIV/AIDS were infected after selling blood, said Ray Yip, director of the Beijing office of the United States' Global AIDS Programme.
Some areas that experienced resultant epidemics have since moved to determine the exact number of people who got the virus through blood sales. In research conducted since July 26, Henan found 280,000 people who had sold blood. Of them, 25,000 tested positive for HIV and about 20 per cent of these were undiagnosed before the survey.
With many people dying without being diagnosed and only fragmentary information on prevalence, prevention and treatment efforts are made significantly harder.
The Ministry of Health has compiled guidance on data collection and Mao said that the confidentiality of people's HIV status is a top priority and that the government will cover treatment costs.
(China.org.cn China Daily October 14, 2004)