China Faces AIDS Disaster of Unimaginable Proportions: UN Report
June 6, 2002
China is facing an HIV/AIDS disaster of unimaginable proportions and could soon have more HIV cases than any other country in the world, according to an alarming UN report obtained by AFP. The document, a final version of which has been sent to the printers by the UNAIDS office in Beijing, calls for urgent official action.Adapted from:
"A HIV/AIDS disaster of unimaginable proportions now lies in wait to rattle the country and it can be feared that in just a couple of years, China might count more HIV infections than any other country in the world," said the document entitled "AIDS in China, New Millennium -- Titanic Challenge."
In the strongest public criticism of Beijing's response so far, the UN said inadequate government response and an overall lack of openness in dealing with the epidemic were fueling the spread of AIDS. The document largely blamed insufficient government leadership and commitment for hindering an effective response to the AIDS crisis.
"Indeed we are now witnessing the unfolding of an HIV/AIDS epidemic of proportions beyond belief, an epidemic which calls for an urgent and proper, but currently yet unanswered, major response," the document said. Pointing to a government system full of shortcomings and that only counts people hospitalized or in prison, the document said many HIV cases are not reported. The latest government estimates indicate there are 850,000 Chinese with HIV. The UN, however, believes that more than 1 million people are infected -- possibly far more.
Factors contributing to the rapid spread of AIDS in China include poor awareness, huge internal labor migration, poverty, widespread prostitution, increased sexual openness and low condom use. According to the document, "Millions of Chinese have never heard the word AIDS. Many more still think it is more likely to contract HIV from mosquito bites or handshaking than through sharing needles or unsafe sex." Unsafe blood banks, now largely but not completely regulated, as well as a government ban on TV ads for condoms, have also contributed to the epidemic.
Agence France Presse
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.