News / Asia

    Health Advocates Urge Better Education to Curb China’s AIDS Infections

    FILE - A Chinese volunteer hands free condom and AIDS prevention brochures during an HIV/AIDS awareness campaign in Beijing.FILE - A Chinese volunteer hands free condom and AIDS prevention brochures during an HIV/AIDS awareness campaign in Beijing.
    x
    FILE - A Chinese volunteer hands free condom and AIDS prevention brochures during an HIV/AIDS awareness campaign in Beijing.
    FILE - A Chinese volunteer hands free condom and AIDS prevention brochures during an HIV/AIDS awareness campaign in Beijing.
    Shannon Van Sant

    China has a relatively low prevalence of HIV positive citizens, with fewer than point-one (0.1) percent of adults infected. But the number of AIDS cases continues to rise, and health advocates blame a lack of education and prevention. 

    The number of people with HIV in China is fairly low given the size of the population.  According to official statistics, 800,000 Chinese are living with HIV, but health officials are concerned about a rise in HIV transmission, particularly among the young.
     
    According to Chinese state media, more than 70,000 new cases of HIV were identified in 2013, and infection rates are rising among teenagers and young adults.
     
    “What we are have seen over the past few years is a quite significant shift in where infections are happening," explains Dr. Bernhard Schwartlander, the World Health Organization's (WHO) representative in China. "Where as initially the majority of infections happened through blood transfusion and blood donations situations and injecting drug use.  Today the vast majority of cases is transmitted through sexual transmission, both heterosexual and homosexual, that means sex between men.”
     
    Chinese authorities estimate nearly 90 percent of new infections occur through sexual contact.

    Economic development, urbanization

    Dr. Schwartlander attributes the rise in sexual transmission to economic development and urbanization.  Hundreds of millions of China’s migrant workers are in the process of moving from the countryside to the cities.  It’s the largest mass migration of human beings in history.  
     
    “China is going through a very traumatic social and economic change, which brings very good things, and also brings very difficult and challenging things.  It brings risks in health, and also increasing opportunities to engage in risky behavior, and also transmitting HIV,” said Schwartlander.

    As young people move away from the countryside in search of more lucrative work, the transition can be an abrupt cultural change. The doctor said that many are not fully prepared for the shift in lifestyle.
     
    “That is a situation we have seen in many cities, particularly bigger cities, where a new sub culture is emerging with a new freedom.  People can come together, people can get together, but also it offers opportunities for engaging in sexual activity, and unfortunately the prevention education hasn’t kept pace many places with these realities.”
     
    Lack of knowledge

    While China’s economic development has brought people more opportunities to congregate and socialize, many in the country still know little about HIV.  Schwartlander says only half of HIV carriers in the gay community know they have the virus.  Many wait to seek treatment until the disease has progressed.  
     
    Xiaogang Wei organizes an AIDS Walk every year in Beijing to raise money for prevention of HIV and AIDS.  He said people with HIV face a lot of stigma in China, which prevents them from talking openly about the disease and learning how to prevent and seek treatment.  “Of course there are a lot of problems.  There are still people getting fired because they have HIV," he noted. "People get rejected at school, because they have HIV.”
     
    Stigma and prejudice

    Dr. Schwartlander said that even at China’s hospitals, HIV patients face prejudice.  Many in China fear the disease is contagious and can be spread through sharing food or drink, so doctors can be reluctant to treat HIV carriers for fear of scaring off other patients and losing revenue for the hospital.  
     
    “There is a fairly high level of discrimination and stigma, including in the health sector.  That is particularly important because people feel they are stigmatized, discriminated against at the places where they should get help, they don’t go there,” he explained.
     
    State news media reported that Chinese leaders are renewing their focus on the disease, in part through increased state funding for treatment, but also by reaching out to local health groups.
     
    Civil society organizations hope this will give them more power to help China’ fight against the disease.   But Maya Wong, of Human Rights Watch, is skeptical.   “The government on the one hand has been quick to deal with the AIDS crisis through providing access to medical care, however there are still obstacles.  On the other hand it continues to obstruct efforts and harass activists who try to have an honest discussion on how to control the spread of AIDS,” she said.
     
    One Chinese activist, Ye Haiyan, who lobbies for the rights of sex workers, was denied permission by Beijing to travel to this week’s International AIDS Conference in Melbourne, Australia.
     
    China’s government may decide it needs activists’ help in fighting the disease.  The WHO has said that high rates of HIV amongst gay men threatens progress in the battle against AIDS worldwide, arguing that although these men are at high risk of becoming infected, they are also least likely to seek prevention and treatment services. 

    You May Like

    New EU Asylum Rules Could Boost Rightists

    New regulations will seek to correct EU failures in dealing with migrant crisis, most notably inability to get member states to absorb a total of 160,000 refugees

    More Political Turmoil Likely in Iraq as Iran Waits in the Wings

    Analysts warn that Tehran, even though it may not be engineering the Sadrist protests in Baghdad, is seeking to leverage its influence on its neighbor

    Forced Anal Testing Case to Appear Before Kenya Court

    Men challenge use of anal examinations to ‘prove homosexuality’; practice accomplishes nothing except to humiliate those subjected to them, according to Human Rights Watch

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Rulingi
    X
    May 03, 2016 5:16 PM
    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Elephant Summit Results in $5M in Pledges, Presidential Support

    Attended and supported by three African presidents, a three-day anti-poaching summit has concluded in Kenya, resulting in $5 million in pledges and a united message to the world that elephants are worth more alive than dead. The summit culminated at the Nairobi National Park with the largest ivory burn in history. VOA’s Jill Craig attended the summit and has this report about the outcomes.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With the conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, between the rebel PKK and the Turkish state, many Kurds are trying to escape the turmoil by focusing on the success of their football team Amedspor in Diyarbakir. The club is increasingly becoming a symbol for Kurds, not only in Diyarbakir but beyond. Dorian Jones reports from southeast Turkey.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora