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Yunnan still leading China in HIV/AIDS cases

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Yunnan still holds the dubious distinction of having more HIV infections and AIDS patients than anywhere else in China, and added 10,000 new HIV infections in the first 10 months of this year alone, according to a China Daily report.

The provincial AIDS prevention bureau has said that as of October 31, more than 93,500 HIV infections or AIDS cases had been recorded in Yunnan, during which time more than 14,300 people died from AIDS-related complications.

For most of the two decades or more that HIV – the virus that causes AIDS – has existed in Yunnan, it was predominantly spread via intravenous drug use, but in recent years sexual intercourse has become the main route of transmission.

According to the newest provincial data, 77.3 percent of this year's new transmissions were via sexual intercourse. As for all HIV/AIDS cases provincewide, 45.8 percent were transmitted via sex, as opposed to 37.3 percent via intravenous drug use.

Other data trends include 60.8 percent of this year's infections being accounted for by individuals between the ages of 20 and 39, according to director of Yunnan's HIV/AIDS bureau, Xu Heping.

Many of this year's new infections have also been centered around Yunnan's rural residents, who accounted for 55.3 percent of total new infections, and the unemployed, who accounted for nearly 19 percent.

China's HIV/AIDS infection statistics are often criticized by international HIV/AIDS organizations as being deflated or inaccurate. Current estimates from different organizations around the world put the country's total number of cases at between 430,000 and 1.5 million.

In what may be a sign of increased Chinese cooperation with international organizations, a panel made up of China's Ministry of Health, the World Health Organization and UNAIDS is predicting that China's officially registered cases of HIV and AIDS will jump from 346,000 to 780,000 by the end of this year.

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As GoKunming's commentary states, China's "HIV/AIDS infection statistics are often criticized by international HIV/AIDS organizations as being deflated or inaccurate."

This is undoubtedly true, both intentionally and unintentionally. Intentionally, because the government has long used statistics to put the media focus on transmission of the disease through intravenous drug use rather than focusing on the nationwide sex-for-pay industry. I find it hard to believe that the incidence of HIV/AIDS in Yunnan could be higher than that in Guangdong, particularly Dongguan and Shenzhen. There must easily be over 50,000 young women in those two cities working in karaoke joints and massage parlours where sex-for-money is a commodity, or employed as "mistresses" (ernai) by HK and Taiwan businessmen.

The difference is that poor rural dwellers and drug users in Yunnan can and are easily tested for HIV/AIDS, while women in the sex trade in Guangdong are protected from such testing by their employers and the government there which allows the industry to function as it pleases.

The statistics are perhaps "unintentionally" biased in that they overstate the prevalence of HIV/AIDS among those groups tested, and understate its status in the general population. It is an undeniable fact that the following groups are much more likely to be tested:

*** Suspected drug users

*** Foreign work permit applicants/holders in China (all must be tested for HIV/AIDS in order to obtain a permit)

*** HK/Taiwanese work permit applicants/holders

*** Homosexuals when in police custody

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