Chinese Health Minister Chen Zhu has revealed that the rates of new HIV/AIDS infections in the country are declining, and that the disease is now being transmitted mainly through sex.
"At present, the AIDS epidemic in China is spreading at a slower rate. Sexual transmission is now the main route for the spread," the China Daily quoted him as telling a new conference in Beijing on Thursday.
The conference was organised in the run-up to World AIDS Day, on 1 December. It saw Chen citing a joint report by the Ministry of Health, the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNAIDS.
The minister said that the country estimated to have 50,000 new infections in 2007, down from 70,000 new cases in 2005. The report said that 44.7 per cent of the new infections came from heterosexual transmission, 12.2 per cent from men having sex with men, 42 per cent from intravenous drug use, and 1.1 percent from mother-to-infant transmission.
It also revealed that by the end of October 2007, a total of 223,501 people had contracted HIV, including 62,838 people with fully blown AIDS.
The Ministry, the WHO and UNAIDS, however, have also estimated that China will have as many as 700,000 people living with HIV/AIDS by the end of 2007, including 85,000 AIDS patients. The 38-page report said that the difference between the estimated figures and official figures was party because people were reluctant to come forward for treatment.
"China's HIV epidemic remains one of low prevalence overall, but with pockets of high infection among specific sub-populations," the report said. Chen admitted that there was need to address a number of core issues like better advocacy, improved treatment and care, and more focused education and discrimination reduction.
He said that the Chinese leadership was strengthening its commitment to HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment at different levels of the government. According to him, the amount spent in 2007 had risen to 126 million dollars, from 114 million dollars in 2006. Chen insisted that the Government would put more focus on traditionally marginalized groups, like the gay community and drug users.
However, he acknowledged the fact that the use of condom by prostitutes had risen from 14.7 per cent in 2001 to 41.4 per cent last year.