China AIDS Rate Slows, Main Transmission Now Sex
November 29, 2007
Today in Beijing, Health Minister Chen Zhu said "the AIDS epidemic in China continues to spread, but at a slower rate." In 2007, the country will have an estimated 50,000 new HIV infections, down from 70,000 in 2005. China's total HIV/AIDS cases will be about 700,000 this year, up from an earlier forecast of 650,000.
According to a report by the State Council, 44.7 percent of new infections are linked to heterosexual transmission, 12.2 percent to men having sex with men (MSM), and 42 percent to intravenous drug use. Previously, most infections were transmitted by IV drug use. "Sexual transmission is now the main route for the spread of AIDS," said Chen.
Prevention efforts should focus on traditionally marginalized groups, such as gay men, prostitutes, and drug users, said Chen. Condom use by sex workers has climbed from 14.7 percent in 2001 to 41.4 percent last year, he noted. But the report found that risky behavior by MSM remains widespread, with just one-third having protected anal sex.
Now that HIV is primarily being transmitted via sex, a male circumcision campaign will not be ruled out, said Chen. Studies have shown the procedure can reduce the risk of female-to-male HIV transmission by up to 60 percent, though it does not offer total protection.
"This is a technical question. I think our experts will evaluate it," said Chen. "Even before the AIDS era some children in China were already being circumcised." Should the government decide to promote circumcision, Chen does not believe it would encounter much opposition, cultural or otherwise. "As long as there is evidence it is effective, I don't think it would be an issue."
11.29.2007; Ben Blanchard
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.