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Yunnan HIV infections jump among women, gay men

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A recent study focusing on the spread of HIV in Yunnan has revealed significant shifts in which demographics are at higher risk for becoming infected with the virus that causes AIDS, according to a Tsinghua University study cited in a Bloomberg report.

According to the study, which was authored by Zhang Linqi, executive director and professor at Tsinghua's Comprehensive AIDS Research Center in Beijing, HIV infections spread via heterosexual contact accounted for 38 percent of all cases in 2006 in Yunnan.

Intravenous drug use, which had accounted for all of Yunnan's infections in 1989, dropped to 40 percent in 2006. Intravenous drug use was how HIV first entered and spread throughout Yunnan, which is located just north of the Golden Triangle. As of 2006, Yunnan had 48,951 HIV cases and 3,935 AIDS patients.

In general, intravenous drug users are being surpassed by women and homosexual men as the fastest-growing gender demographics, while in ethnic and socioeconomic terms urbanized Han Chinese are overtaking rural minorities

"HIV/AIDS is spreading beyond the high-risk populations," Zhang told Bloomberg, "It is the responsibility of every citizen to help control the further spread. More needs to be done in a much bigger and more effective manner."

The study focused on 3.2 million blood samples taken in Yunnan between 1989 and 2006. It found that between 1996 and 2006, the proportion of Yunnan HIV cases that were women rose from 7.1 percent to 35 percent. In 1996 the gender ratio for HIV infections was one woman to every 13 men, by 2006 that ratio had changed to 1:1.9.

In addition to gender pattern shifts, ethnic trends have also changed. Between 1989 and 1995, the Dai and Jingpo ethnic minorities in rural southern Yunnan were most at-risk for HIV infection – today the Han ethnic majority accounts for 60 percent of Yunnan's HIV cases.

"The high percentage of infected are now due to sexual contact," Bloomberg cited Zhang as saying. "It has begun to move from farmer, minority groups in rural areas into worker, Han-majority urban settings."

The study's researchers concluded that although less than one percent of China's population is HIV-positive, resolute action must be taken to address China's HIV/AIDS situation before it makes further headway into the general population. The study called for expansion of social programs targeting HIV as well as free medical treatment for the infected.

Related articles:

Interview: Curbing the spread of HIV/AIDS in Yunnan

China praised for HIV/AIDS efforts

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