UN Reports on China’s HIV/AIDS Epidemic

In a report entitled, “HIV/AIDS: China’s Titantic Peril”, the United Nations (UN) last week criticized the Chinese government for its inaction regarding the country’s HIV/AIDS epidemic. China estimates 850,000 infections Ñ an increase of 250,000 over last year; however, the UN study suggests numbers as high as 1.5 million, with projections reaching 10 million by 2010, according to the New York Times.

Most data on HIV in China come from programs monitoring detained drug users, detained sex workers, patients diagnosed with sexually transmitted diseases (STD), and pregnant women in urban areas. Less known is the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in rural provinces exacerbated by unsanitary medical practices and blood collections. For example, The Times reports that during the 1990s, Henan Province operated village-wide blood collections, whereby blood was pooled, fractionated for components, and then returned to donors. In some villages, over 50 percent of adults were infected. Widespread ignorance about HIV and continued discrimination in local laws persist. UN chief representative in China Kerstin Leitner warned: “The virus is still spreading and we need to marshal all our resources in a very different way if we want to stop the virus.”

While the Chinese Health Ministry has yet to issue an official response, Sun Xinhua, head of the its disease control department said: “I think the information they have is not sufficient and cannot be fully trusted.” The ministry has been quoted as spending only $60 million over the past five years in the fight against HIV/AIDS. The government, which officially acknowledged the epidemic just last August, held a national conference on the issue in November.

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NY Times 6/27/02; UN Wire 6/28/02

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