The rising number of foreigners diagnosed with HIV/AIDS in China is worrying health officials who want Chinese citizens to be given priority with regards to free treatment.
There is a lack of "clear policies" on the issue of free treatment for HIV/AIDS patients, said a health expert.
According to China's National Centre for AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Diseases Control and Prevention, the mainland reported 8,366 foreign HIV/AIDS sufferers at the end of August. More than 200 foreigners were receiving free antiviral therapy, China Daily reported.
Growing international exchanges are seeing more foreign sufferers arrive and stay longer in China, said Wu Zunyou, the centre's director.
"We have no clear policies and Chinese nationals should always be the top priority, particularly with limited funding", said Wu.
Most foreign sufferers are in the 20 to 44 age group and more than 50 percent were infected through heterosexual sex. Intravenous drug use is the second leading transmission route, the official revealed.
According to Zhao Yan, deputy director of the national centre's AIDS treatment and care division, the vast majority were diagnosed in hospital.
The official also said free treatment is only for Chinese nationals with case-by-case exceptions for foreigners. Over 60 percent of the foreigners receiving free treatment were female.
According to Jia Manhong, director of the AIDS division under the province's centre for disease control and prevention, Yunnan has most cases -- about 120.
"A great majority were women who had been living here for a long time and some even married locals and had children," Jia said, adding that many foreign women were trafficked over the border as brides.
Some of these came already infected with HIV while some were infected by their Chinese husbands. "Even without a legal permit to stay and a marriage certificate we still have to provide these people free treatment otherwise they could die and their families would be alone," she said.
Since the province recorded its first HIV outbreak among drug users in 1989, authorities have reported over 5,500 foreign sufferers, mostly people from Myanmar. The numbers are increasing, Jia said.