-In 2008, AIDS became the leading infectious disease in China
-Rise in deaths attributed to improved reporting of HIV/AIDS statistics by Chinese government, and continued insufficient prevention programs
-HIV/AIDS cases will likely continue to increase throughout China in the mid-term, as prevention and treatment will remain inadequate for the population size
The Chinese government recently released new figures, which indicate that Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) has become the leading infectious disease in China. According to the Health Ministry report, AIDS has now surpassed tuberculosis, hepatitis, rabies and malaria as the deadliest communicable disease. This is the first time that AIDS has topped the infectious disease category in China, having ranked third in 2005.
Although improved reporting mechanisms by the government have fueled the rise in reported AIDS cases, the spread of the disease is cause for growing interest. Concern about the possible impact to the available labor force because of an increase in disease rates will likely prompt additional action by the Chinese government. However, these actions may not result in reduced new cases of the disease.
Inadequate health care and prevention measures, and a stigma preventing same sex couples and drug addicts from receiving treatment for Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and AIDS will likely continue to increase transmission rates of the disease within China into the medium to long-term.
China’s recent health ministry report indicated that, on average, one person died every hour from AIDS during the first nine months of 2008; with a reported 6,897 people dying due to AIDS from January – September 2008.
•According to Chinese government statistics, an estimated 34,864 Chinese citizens have died from AIDS since 1985 when it was first detected in China.
•In 2007, the Joint United Nations Program on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS) estimated that 700,000 HIV/AIDS carriers in China were living with the disease, with 85,000 new cases reported in that year alone.
•UNAIDS also has estimated that there are an additional 30-50 million people within China that are at risk of exposure to HIV.
China’s population is estimated to be roughly 1,300 million residents, making the reported AIDS incidents seem small in comparison. However, the increasing prevalence of the disease and concern for further spread between high-risk individuals has alarmed world health care organizations, many of which have noted AIDS figures increasing elsewhere in Asia. As such, the World Health Organization (WHO) has encouraged countries throughout Asia to increase preventative programs to combat the spread of the disease.
A health conference last week in Hong Kong attended by health care professionals from twelve Asian countries, including Australia, China, Cambodia, Malaysia and the Philippines, was conducted to address the increasing infection rates of the disease within these countries. However, while this coordination is seen as a step in the right direction, the conference mainly focused on preventative measures for at-risk populations, but did not provide a comprehensive implementation solution or funding alternatives to begin the preventative strategies.
Death Rate Likely to Increase
Although China has taken some steps to address the spread of HIV/AIDS, the disease has still flourished. With roughly one in five individuals in the world residing in China, the increase in the HIV/AIDS rate will likely remain a long-term concern. Without improved preventative programs, increased education and reduction of infection in high-risk groups—including intravenous drug users, sex workers and same sex couples—the death rate due to the disease will likely continue to climb in China. As other Asian countries also struggle with an increasing disease rate, concern for further spread of the disease will also grow.