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HIV/AIDS infections slow down
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The rate of new HIV/AIDS infections in China is slowing and the disease is now mainly being transmitted through sex, Health Minister Chen Zhu said yesterday.

The country will have an estimated 50,000 new infections in 2007, compared with 70,000 in 2005, though groups like men who have sex with men (MSM) are increasingly at risk, according to The Joint Assessment of HIV/AIDS Prevention, Treatment and Care in China (2007), jointly released by the State Council AIDS Working Committee Office and the UN Theme Group on AIDS in China.

That will mean there will be about 700,000 people living with HIV/AIDS this year in the country, up from 650,000 estimated in 2005.

Of the new infections, 44.7 percent will come from heterosexual transmission, 12.2 percent from MSM, and 42 percent from intravenous drug use (IDU), the report said.

In the past, more than half the infections were caused by IDU.

The change is in line with the international trend of major HIV transmission modes, which is gradually shifting from IDU to unsafe sex, Chen noted.

The ratio of sexual transmission is surging each year, especially among MSM, Chen said.

The percentage of homosexuals infected showed a dramatic increase to 3.3 percent in 2007, compared with 0.4 percent in 2005.

Official estimates put the homosexual population in China at 5 to 10 million, but the HIV prevalence rate among them is many times more than the general population, which stands at 0.05 percent.

As many as 70 percent of homosexuals have multiple partners but only 30 percent use condoms, said the report.

Worse, a number of MSM are bisexual, which might further drive up the spread of the disease.

The assessment said by the end of 2007, there will be 85,000 full-blown AIDS patients.

The cumulative total of reported HIV positive cases is 223,501, including nearly 63,000 with AIDS and 22,205 recorded deaths.

These are also major risk factors behind the potential for virus to further spread, said the report: Up to 70 percent of the total reported cases are among people aged between 20 and 39.

As the disease is so far incurable, prevention should be the top priority, said former vice-health minister Wang Longde, who now heads the Chinese Preventive Medicine Association.

"The youth should be steered away from high risk behavior and made more aware of HIV/AIDS containment," Wang said.

(China Daily November 30, 2007)

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