The number of people living with HIV/AIDS in China has surged by 14 percent. The country’s state media said on Saturday, September 29, that by the end of June 2018, the number of people living with the infection in the country had reached 820,756.
The discussion took place at a national conference on HIV/AIDS in China’s southwest province of Yunnan. According to national figures, a total of 253,031 people have succumbed to the deadly virus since the first case was discovered in 1985.
It was also revealed during the conference that due to advancements in medical technology and increased precautionary measures taken at hospitals, the number of HIV infections caused by blood transfusions has been reduced to zero.
Officials said that in the second quarter of 2018, there were 40,104 reported HIV/AIDS cases, the majority of which were sexually transmitted, as reported by China’s state-run press agency, Xinhua News.
Wang Bin, an official of the country’s National Health Commission, said during the conference that the country has established ‘an initial network for HIV/AIDS prevention and testing, covering both urban and rural areas,’ per Xinhua News.
In the late 1990s, the Chinese government came under fire from the international community after the emergence of a blood-transfusion scandal which infected tens of thousands of people with HIV in rural China, per the Guardian report.
In 2015, a five-year-old girl contracted HIV through blood transfusion in the country’s eastern province of Fujian. Xinhua News stated that the infection was transmitted during an operation for congenital heart disease in 2010.
The girl named Maomao, who was 8-months-old at the time of the operation, received blood donation from eight people, one of whom was later found to have HIV.
Officials of the Fujian government said that the blood used during the operation could not be detected to contain the virus because it was in a “window period,” per a Xinhua News report.
The window period is the time – usually spanning two to four weeks – between potential exposure to HIV infection and the point when the test could detect the presence of the virus. During this period, a person could be infected with the HIV infection, but their tests will still be HIV negative.
According to Avert – a U.K.-based non-governmental organization working on HIV education, China has made substantial efforts to tackle the HIV epidemic over a period of three decades.
The NGO reported that when it comes to the rate of prevalence, China’s national average is relatively low. However, the HIV epidemic poses a major health risk “for some of the key affected populations in the country,” predominantly including the LGBT community.
Although China decriminalized homosexuality in 1997, the stigma and discrimination that gay people face in the country prevent them from accessing HIV services. According to a report by the BBC, the country’s conservative values push 70 – 90 percent of homosexual men to eventually marry females.
In 2015, Xinhua News published an article on how the stigma of homosexuality among the Chinese men has been hindering the prevention of HIV in the country. The article quoted statistics from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (China CDC), which revealed that there has been a rapid growth in infections among young, homosexual males.
The article quoted AIDS prevention activist, Zhang Jinxiong as stating, “Many gay people in China are forced to have more risky and haphazard relationships as stigma prevents them from keeping long-term partners. To curb the spread of HIV, China needs to stem discrimination against gay people.”