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International News

HIV Up Sharply Among Women, Gay Men in China

October 2, 2008

A study of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in China's southwestern Yunnan province shows the virus is spreading from high-risk groups into the wider population. The province borders Laos, Myanmar, and Vietnam and has a long history of opium and heroin trade.

Professor Zhang Linqi, director of the Beijing-based AIDS Research Center, and colleagues analyzed 3.2 million blood samples tested between 1989 and 2006 in Yunnan. The data showed HIV infections among gay and bisexual men in the province have increased eight-fold in the past few years. The proportion of infections among intravenous drug users fell from 100 percent in 1989 to 40 percent in 2006, while heterosexual transmissions rose markedly, accounting for 37.5 percent of infections in 2006.

Women now comprise 35 percent of those infected in Yunnan, up from 7.1 percent prior to 1996. "As 90 percent of these women are of child-bearing age (ages 15-44), this is likely to translate into more vertical transmission from mother to child," the researchers found.

"HIV/AIDS is spreading beyond the high-risk populations, largely due to increased transmission through sexual contact," said Zhang.

These changing demographics have resulted in changes in HIV strains now circulating in Yunnan. The two main groups include one circulating in Thailand and Myanmar, and the other in France and the United States.

This development "makes treatment and vaccine development even more challenging," said Zhang, adding that proven prevention efforts must be scaled up in Yunnan.

The study, "The Changing Face of HIV in China," was published in Nature (2008;455(7213):609-612).

Back to other news for October 2008

Adapted from:
10.01.2008; Tan Ee Lyn

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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.
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