AIDS has become China's deadliest infectious disease for the first time, the government said, with figures showing at least one person died on average every hour in the first nine months of last year.
AIDS overtook tuberculosis and rabies as the country's number one disease killer in 2008, the health ministry said in a report released on Tuesday.
Although full-year figures were not released, the ministry said the 6,897 people who died from AIDS from January to September made it the deadliest infectious disease.
It said 34,864 people had died from AIDS since it was first detected in China in the 1980s. A total of 264,302 people were confirmed to have contracted the HIV virus that leads to AIDS, the report said.
However those figures are a vast underestimate of the true picture, as the tally refers only to confirmed incidents of the condition.
China actually had an estimated 700,000 HIV/AIDS carriers in 2007, with an estimated 85,000 people infected that year, according to the ministry.