The Health Ministry revealed today that new cases of HIV/AIDS in China rose by 45 percent in 2006. Last year China lowered its estimate of infected individuals by about 2,000 people, despite international warnings that the disease was simply being underreported, the Independent reports.
“It’s been hard over the years to discover the number of AIDS patients because of the social stigma,” a ministry spokesman said. The disease is spreading fast in a country where information about Aids has long been suppressed. For many years, Chinese would say HIV/Aids was a disease that affected foreigners, and could be passed through shaking hands or sharing chopsticks.
The government has finally acknowledged that it faces a battle in resolving the rise in HIV/AIDS infections. The disease is now mainly sexually transmitted; before, it had been mostly caused by intravenous drug use.
The United Nations has warned that China could have 10 million cases of HIV by 2010 unless it takes steps to educate the public and fight the epidemic.
Along with the traditional routes of infection, about 70,000 people have been infected by contaminated blood transfusions. Many blood banks in rural China are not controlled by the government and often unsanitary.
In 2006 the government banned organizations or individuals to discriminate against Aids patients or their families. However, the Health Ministry survey found that about 60 percent of city dwellers were “nervous” about contact with HIV-positive people.
Syphilis cases also rose by 24 percent.