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HIV grows rapidly among city men who have sex with men

SHANGHAI'S incidence of HIV/AIDS cases involving men who have sex with men has risen fivefold in recent years, medical experts said yesterday at a science forum designed to promote public awareness of the deadly disease.

The city is now carrying out an intervention and education campaign to combat HIV transmission through unsafe sex, the forum participants pointed out. Among the efforts, health authorities are researching the prevalence of HIV/AIDS among gays, bisexuals and female sex workers.

The Shanghai Center for Disease Control and Prevention began surveying gay males in 2005 to find out more about their sexual behavior and infection experience with HIV/AIDS and syphilis.

The incidence of syphilis from 2005 to 2007 remained around 12 to 13 percent, while HIV/AIDS increased every year. The incidence rate was 1.5 percent in 2005, 4.1 percent in 2006 and 7.5 percent in 2007, according to the survey. Data from 2008 are not yet available.

Multiple partners

According to the survey, more than 60 percent of the respondents had more than one male sexual partner.

"The increase in HIV/AIDS cases involving male-to-male sex is a challenge for almost all Asian countries," said Kang Laiyi, an AIDS expert at the Shanghai Center for Disease Control and Prevention. "Society is becoming more tolerant of gays and bisexuals, and intervention and education for this group should be intensified."

The local CDC has a 1,000-member team working with people such as drug users and sex workers who practice high-risk behavior.

"Our team members visit entertainment venues to promote education among gays and sex workers," Kang said. "AIDS is a preventable and controllable disease," Kang said.

"Teaching safe sex and promoting the availability of condoms is very effective in combating the disease, according to the experience of other countries like Thailand."

China has reported more than 276,000 HIV/AIDS cases, with more than 45,000 new cases last year. Experts estimated there are actually about 700,000 people infected with HIV in China, including 85,000 AIDS patients.

Though only 8.9 percent of the nation's reported HIV/AIDS victims contracted the virus through sex, the number is growing rapidly. Unsafe sex was the pathway for 45.8 percent of the new cases in 2008.

Shanghai has reported 3,947 HIV/AIDS cases, including 936 new victims last year, 34.1 percent more than in the previous year.

Unprotected sex was the top transmission pathway in the city, followed by intravenous drug use.


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