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International News

China Survey Finds 1 in 6 Haven't Heard of AIDS

February 4, 2003

A new survey finds that most of China's population does not know what causes AIDS or how to prevent it -- and 17 percent of respondents had never even heard of it.

"I was surprised and discouraged because there was such a consistent lack of knowledge on all our measures," said study author Dr. Deborah Holtzman, a CDC scientist.

China's government estimates that 850,000 of China's nearly 1.3 billion people are currently HIV-infected. Some experts, however, believe the number could be much higher, Holtzman said. It is predicted that as many as 10 million people could be infected by 2010.

"It's spreading fairly rapidly. Certainly now is the time to deal with it," Holtzman said. The Chinese government publicly acknowledged the country's AIDS problem in 2001, and there is lost ground to be made up, Holtzman said. She said China's government needs to launch an aggressive nationwide educational campaign on HIV/AIDS, and CDC is helping in those efforts. "If people don't know how to prevent it, that just makes the problem so much worse," she said.

Holtzman worked on the new study with other researchers at CDC, Emory University and China's State Family Planning Commission, which funded the research. The findings are based on a December 2000 in-home survey of about 7,000 people ages 15-49.

Of respondents who had heard of HIV, 73 percent did not know it was a virus, and 89 percent did not know how it can be detected. While 91 percent of these respondents knew that HIV can be transmitted, 22 percent could not identify even one route of transmission. Sixty-eight percent knew that HIV can be spread through sex. While 74 percent thought that HIV is preventable, 77 percent did not know that condoms offer protection, and 83 percent did not know infection could be avoided by not sharing needles. Eighty-four percent favored teaching prevention in schools. Among those least likely to be knowledgeable about HIV/AIDS were the poorest, the least educated, women and farmers.

The study, "Current HIV/AIDS-Related Knowledge, Attitudes, and Practices Among the General Population in China: Implications for Action," was published on (, a Web site run by the journal Science.

Back to other CDC news for February 4, 2003

Previous Updates

Adapted from:
Reuters Health
01.30.03; Jacqueline Stenson

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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.