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Official: in some parts ADIS situation 'serious'
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While the prevalence of AIDS in China remains low compared with the total population, the situation is very serious in several provinces affected by drug trafficking and illegal blood donation, senior Chinese AIDS control officials said on Saturday.

China had registered a total of 214,000 HIV cases by July 30 this year, said Hao Yang, deputy director of the AIDS prevention and control office of the State Council during an on-line interview at Xinhuanet.com.

"But still many HIV-positive people are not registered as having the disease," Hao said, "we rely on sample surveys to assess the general prevalence."

According to the last major survey in 2005 by the Ministry of Health, Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and World Health Organization (WHO), the number of people suffering from HIV in China was estimated to be 650,000.

The survey is normally carried out every two years but this year's figure has yet to be released.

"On one hand the prevalence is still low compared with the total population of 1.3 billion, but on the other hand it is a large number," Hao said.

The situation in China is better than many African countries and some Asian neighbors, but in several provinces which are troubled by drug trafficking and illegal blood donation, the prevalence is high and the situation is very serious, he said.

When AIDS prevalence in common Chinese, for instance pregnant women, remains less than one percent, it can be regarded as low, said Wu Zhunyou, director of China's National Center for AIDS Prevention and Control (NCAIDS), in the same interview.

The people who have HIV in China are mainly from high-risk groups like drug users, sex workers, homosexuals and those having more than one sex partner, he said.

"But China must learn the lessons from countries like South Africa. We are trying to do things in advance," he said.

A number of government policies have been issued including free HIV tests to everyone and free treatment for AIDS patients in rural areas and low-income earners in cities without basic health insurance as well as free treatment and delivery service to HIV-positive expectant mothers.

Since 2005, disease control departments in China's counties, the lowest level, now report HIV-positive cases to the central government in Beijing directly through a computer network. They used to send the information by post.

"This has improved the accuracy of HIV/AIDS data," Hao said.

"We can't fully control the spread of AIDS in a short time. That's why more preventive efforts must be made," Wu said.

The government has also launched campaigns to increase public awareness about the diseases, for instance, education on safe sex among youth and setting up condom vending machines.

In the past two years in major cities, hotel rooms have been required to provide condoms.

(Xinhua News Agency September 30, 2007)

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