A new survey says the number of HIV carriers in central China's Henan Province tops 25,000.
Following unprecedented widespread testing of people who may have sold blood between 1992 and 1996, the province has pegged the number of infected people at 25,036 while the number of patients with full blown AIDS is 11,815.
Some 280,476 people in the province sold blood during those years.
The survey has created a whole new view of the state of the epidemic in the province, raising estimates of people infected by about 20,000, Xinhua News Agency reported.
"But this does not mean that there is widespread AIDS break-out," said an official from the Henan Provincial Health Bureau.
"HIV has an incubation period, usually four to eight years. Now is the time that most of the carriers might develop AIDS."
"This large scale survey aimed to find them all," he said.
The survey was backed by the Ministry of Health. Other provinces are expected to follow suit.
On October 14, the Ministry of Health announced that it would conduct similar surveys before April 15, 2005.
"We paid special attention to migrant workers from the province. They were informed to go back home and get blood tests," the official said.
Their transportation was covered by the local government and those who could not go back were encouraged to send blood samples.
Results showed that a little more than 8 percent of the people who once sold their blood were infected.
In some areas of the province, the percentage was even higher.
In Shenqiu County, one of the 13 hardest hit areas, the percentage reached more than 20 percent in some villages.
There are still about 180 migrant workers from the county have not been tested.
"They will be tested when they come back to spend Spring Festival at home," said Xin Tianyi from the county's hospital.
"We do not want to miss one," he said.
Since the first case of AIDS was found in the province in 1995, Henan has been at the centre of the national AIDS spotlight.
"Years of efforts in popularizing knowledge of AIDS has helped people face the disease bravely."
"They now will not turn pale at the mention of the disease and try all means to evade or conceal the fact," Xin said.
The hospital usually receives 40 to 50 people who come to do an HIV tests monthly.
(Xinhua News Agency November 16, 2004)