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HIV Infections in Yunnan to Double by 2010

The number of people with HIV/AIDS in southwest China's Yunnan Province will nearly double by 2010 to more than 160,000, according to the provincial disease prevention and control center.

About 73,000 people will contract HIV between 2006 and 2010 if no new prevention efforts are made, said Ma Yanling, deputy director of the center's HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment department.

By the end of 2005, Yunnan, which borders southeast Asia's Golden Triangle, had 40,157 cases of HIV infection, 28 percent of the country's total of 140,000.

Local officials estimate that more than 85,000 people in the province have been infected with the disease since the first HIV infection was discovered in 1989.

The number of HIV infections has been rising in the province, especially in the poor border areas, where there is little awareness of AIDS, said Ma.

"Prevention efforts have been partially successful, but are far from enough."

Lu Lin, director of the provincial disease prevention and control center, said that more prevention and awareness campaigns are badly needed to cover all the risk groups.

Methadone clinics only cover four percent of intravenous drug users, and only half the migrant population use condoms, an effective way of curbing HIV/AIDS, Lu said.

"HIV is now mainly caught by sexual contact, rather than intravenous drug use as in the past," Lu said. He added that the ratio of female and male infections had climbed from 1 for 10 in the early 1990s to 1 for 2.2 in 2005.

Health experts had earlier warned that the fatal disease is no longer confined to risk groups such as sex workers and homosexuals but is moving into the general population.

Officials estimate that China has 650,000 people living with HIV, including some 75,000 AIDS patients.

Peter Piot, executive director of the United Nations AIDS agency UNAIDS, recently urged China to launch more prevention programs to cover all the risk groups and provide medical treatment for those with HIV.

"To achieve the goal, central government as well as provincial governments need to increase funding and also encourage more citizens, including HIV-positive people, media, government agencies, and businesses to take part in the fight," said Piot, while visiting the southwestern province of Guizhou.

UNAIDS said that worldwide 38.6 million people were living with HIV. More than four million people became infected in 2005.

AIDS has killed more than 25 million people since it was first recognized in 1981. In 2005 alone, it killed 2.8 million people.

(Xinhua News Agency September 12, 2006)

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