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August 15, 2009

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Call for increased anti-AIDS efforts

CHINA needs to upgrade its anti-AIDS efforts because the epidemic continues to spread mainly through sexual transmission from high-risk groups to average people, the country's leading AIDS-control agency warned yesterday.

The accumulated number of confirmed HIV/AIDS cases on the mainland since the mid-1980s reached 295,000 by May, compared with 264,300 in September 2008, according to the National Center for AIDS/STD Control and Prevention under the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Among them, about 91,500 infected by HIV have developed into AIDS patients and 43,400 have died. More than 52,000 people living with HIV/AIDS are receiving antiretroviral treatment.

"The rise of the HIV/AIDS epidemic has yet to be brought under effective control. In the past five years, the number of new cases surpassed 40,000 every year," Wu Zunyou, director of the national AIDS center, said yesterday.

UNAIDS, the United Nations' anti-AIDS agency, estimated that the actual number of HIV/AIDS cases could be more than 700,000 among China's 1.3 billion people, with nearly 57 percent of new cases being caused by unprotected sex.

Wu said new estimations, conducted by his center, would be released in November.

"HIV transmission through unsafe sex is particularly dangerous to the general public because it is now the leading cause of HIV/AIDS transmission in China, instead of needle sharing among drug users," Wu said.

Gay men and prostitutes run a particularly high risk of contracting the AIDS virus, he said. A study among 18,000 gay men in 61 Chinese cities found the rate of HIV infection was 4.9 percent, much higher than the nation's average of 0.05 percent.

"The increase of HIV infections among gay men is faster than that among heterosexual groups in the past three years," he said.

And more senior citizens are falling prey. A total of 1,713 men older than 60 were infected by HIV in 2008, mainly due to unsafe sex, compared with 483 men of the same age group in 2005.

"They are more likely to quickly develop into AIDS patients because their immune systems are weaker than young people's," Wu said.


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