China Faces Hidden STD Epidemic: Study
March 12, 2003
Chlamydia rates in China have climbed to epidemic proportions, reaching levels comparable to those of developed Western countries, according to a new study. Chlamydia, which is not recorded in official Chinese statistics, has spread in the past 20 years as restrictions on sex workers have eased, and upper-income men have begun traveling on business. In many cases, the men have transmitted the often-symptomless disease to their wives or partners, jeopardizing their ability to have children.Adapted from:
"The silent chlamydia epidemic may cause many women to be infertile, to have ectopic [outside the uterus] pregnancies and be at greater risk of HIV infection," said William Parish, a sociologist and professor of Chinese Studies at the University of Chicago, and one of the study's authors.
The research, conducted between August 1999 and August 2000 in 60 communities by U.S. and Chinese researchers, is the first nationwide survey to combine reports of sexual behavior in China with empirical evidence of its consequences. The survey of about 3,800 Chinese men and women ages 20-64 found that 14.6 percent of the high-income men who had sex with prostitutes had chlamydia, along with 6 percent of their partners. The overall prevalence of the disease -- 2.1 percent for men, 2.6 percent for women -- was similar to that in developing countries. Incidence was highest in the rapidly developing coastal region in the south, where 16 percent of men and 9.9 percent of women were infected. However, even rural areas showed prevalence rates similar to that seen in rural Africa, where STD infection rates are extremely high.
The sexual behavior revealed in the report bodes ill for HIV/AIDS infection rates. "Were the current growth rates to continue, absolute numbers of individuals with HIV infection in China will surpass current numbers in the United States within two years and those in South Africa [currently the highest] within a decade," said co-author Edward Laumann of the University of Chicago.
The full report, "Population-Based Study of Chlamydial Infection in China: A Hidden Epidemic," appears in the Journal of the American Medical Association (2003;289:1265-1273).
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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.