China's AIDS Villages Fear Double Whammy From SARS
April 24, 2003
Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coupled with AIDS could wipe out huge segments of the population in China's "AIDS villages," Chinese and international health officials said Wednesday. More than an estimated 1 million people in central Henan province alone have contracted HIV from selling blood in unsanitary collection stations beginning in the mid-1980s, according to non-governmental organizations. Henan is worst hit, but 22 other provinces, including SARS-affected Shanxi in the north, also have AIDS villages.Adapted from:
"If SARS hits HIV areas, that will decimate all the people who are HIV-positive right away," said Ray Yip, head of AIDS prevention for UNICEF's China office.
"The death rate of SARS now is four percent, but if it gets to AIDS villages, it could be at least 30 to 40 percent," said Hu Jia, executive director of the Beijing-based AIDS prevention group Aizhixing Institute of Health Education. Henan province has reported six cases of SARS so far, and Shanxi has reported 141 cases, but even local doctors question those figures. "There are many suspected cases they're not reporting," said Wu Guofeng, a doctor at the Shangcai County People's Hospital.
Awareness of SARS and its dangers appears low among villagers. Fearful of SARS, migrant workers from Henan's AIDS villages and elsewhere in the province are beginning to return home from major cities -- possibly bringing SARS with them.
So far, no SARS cases have been reported in the AIDS villages, but that does not mean there are no cases. Zhao Zhen, a farmer in Shui county, said three people recently came back from Guangdong with SARS symptoms but only one was isolated. "The other two are staying home," Zhao said. "They don't want to go to the hospital." That mentality is common in a population that has suffered discrimination due to AIDS.
Farmers in AIDS villages are just now learning about SARS by word of mouth, Hu said. "Many of the families have sold their TV to pay for medicine for AIDS. Forget the radio. They can no longer afford to pay for electricity," said Hu. "Some families don't even have soap to wash hands."
Agence France Presse
04.23.03; Cindy Sui
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.