From a distance, the collection of quaint wooden farmhouses folded into lush, terraced hills is a picture postcard of rural Asia, complete with colorful ethnic garb, water buffalo and lush green fields. Get closer and you’re at ground zero of China’s AIDS epidemic.
Nearly 200 people, out of 20,000 populating this loosely knit collection of villages, are known to be infected with the virus that causes AIDS. The 1 percent infection rate is repeated throughout this southwestern corner of Yunnan Province , home of the nation’s first indigenous AIDS case, discovered in 1989.
Thought far higher than most places in China, it also is an omen, some fear, of how the disease is spreading nationwide. By 2010, AIDS cases in Yunnan province are expected to double to an estimated 150,000, despite the enormous resources being poured into prevention efforts here. But that increase is dwarfed by the estimated 30 percent annual growth rate for all of China, according to estimates compiled by international health agencies. [Full Text]
Photo: Pu Dong La, 37, receives antiretroviral treatment for AIDS in Ruili, a town near the Burmese border. Photo by Sharron Lovell, special to the Chronicle.