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

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

US Urges Restraint in Hong Kong Protests

Protesters angered by Beijing's decision to only approve candidates that it sanctions for Hong Kong's leadership elections in 2017 More

Archive of Forgotten UCLA Speeches Offers Snapshot of History

Recordings of prominent voices in social change, politics, science and literature from 1960s, early 1970s now available on YouTube More

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.
Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenyai
X
Gabe Joselow
September 29, 2014 6:20 PM
Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Video

Video Reconstruction? What Reconstruction? Life After War in Gaza

It’s been a month since Israel and the Palestinians agreed to a ceasefire to end 52 days of an air and tank war that left 60,000 homes in Gaza damaged or destroyed and 110,000 homeless. Sharon Behn reports that lack of reconstruction is leading to despair.
Video

Video US, Saudi Arabia and UAE Hit Islamic State's Oil Revenue

The United States, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have bombed oil facilities operated by Islamic State militants in Syria. It was a truly collaborative effort, with the two Arab countries dropping the majority of the bombs. The 12 refineries targeted were estimated to generate as much as $2 million per day for the terrorist group. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb has the story.
Video

Video Russia's Food Sanctions Raise Price Worries, Hopes for Domestic Production

Russia retaliated against Western sanctions imposed for its actions in Ukraine by halting food imports from the West. The temporary import ban on food from Australia, the European Union, Norway and North America has Russian consumers concerned that they could face a sharp increase in food prices. But in an ironic twist, the restrictions aimed at the Kremlin have made Russia's domestic food producers hopeful this can boost their business. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Washington to Pyongyang: 'Shut This Evil System Down'

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is calling on North Korea to shut down prison camps and other human rights abuses following a United Nations Commission of Inquiry into "widespread and systematic human rights violations." VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid