China admits that cases of HIV/Aids have risen 45 per cent

New cases of HIV/Aids in China soared by 45 per cent last year compared with 2006, the Health Ministry in Beijing has revealed. The staggering rise was put down to changing social attitudes and an improvement in data collection.

The government had said late last year that 700,000 people were living with the virus, an increase from an earlier estimate of 650,000. The year before, China lowered its estimate to 650,000 from 840,000, despite warnings from international experts that the disease was spreading due to ignorance and because many people were too afraid or too poor to seek help.

The ministry gave few details about the large percentage rise in sexually transmitted diseases or those passed through the blood. There was also a sharp rise of 24 per cent in syphilis cases.

"It's been hard over the years to discover the number of Aids patients because of the social stigma," a ministry spokesman said. The disease is spreading fast in a country where information about Aids has long been suppressed. For many years, Chinese would say HIV/Aids was a disease that affected foreigners, and could be passed through shaking hands or sharing chopsticks.

The government has finally acknowledged that it faces a battle in resolving the rise in HIV/Aids infections. The disease is now mainly sexually transmitted; before, it had been mostly caused by intravenous drug use.

The United Nations has warned that China could have 10 million cases of HIV by 2010 unless it takes steps to educate the public and fight the epidemic.

A major advance in breaking down the stigma attached to HIV/Aids came in 2003 when Premier Wen Jiabao became China's first senior leader to publicly shake hands with Aids patients, marking a significant change in government policy on the disease. President Hu Jintao has also been photographed embracing Aids patients.

As well as the traditional routes of spreading HIV/Aids, such as prostitution and intravenous drug use, the disease in China has been spread by unsanitary, uncontrolled blood banks that travelled rural areas buying blood. About 70,000 people had been infected by contaminated transfusions.

The Health Ministry survey also showed that even among better-educated city dwellers, nearly 60 per cent were "nervous" to have public contact with HIV-positive people.

Against this kind of background, changing attitudes is an uphill battle, and the Health Ministry has come up with imaginative ways to deal with the problem. It has introduced a major TV campaign to promote condom use, with advertisements produced by the Oscar-winning Aids documentary maker, Ruby Yang. This is a significant advance in a country where talking about sex remains taboo.

China's 200 million migrant workers are among the high-risk groups. Building workers can now attend lectures on the ways HIV/Aids is spread and the importance of condom use.

"I came to know that Aids was not a disease exclusively belonging to sexually active Westerners," Chen Wei, 28, told the People's Daily after a session in the training school on a building site in Changsha in Hunan province.

In 2006, the government issued new rules. Now no organisation or individual is allowed to discriminate against Aids patients or their families, and Aids patients will be entitled to free treatment.

The Health Ministry data also showed scarlet fever and measles cases rose in 2007, though other diseases declined. There was just one death from plague last year, and none from cholera.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Pre-Press / Mac Operator / Artworker - Digital & Litho Print

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: With year on year growth and a reputation for ...

Recruitment Genius: Project Manager - Live Virtual Training / Events

£24000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Project Manager is required t...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Group has been well establishe...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Group has been well establishe...

Day In a Page

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003