HIV/AIDS became China's No. 1 deadly infectious disease for the first time in 2008, with 6,897 people dying from AIDS-related causes during the first nine months of last year, Reuters reports. According to Reuters, a Ministry of Health report said that the number of people living with HIV/AIDS doubled during the first nine months of 2008, with a total of 264,302 HIV/AIDS cases by the end of September. According to United Nations estimates, at the end of 2007, 700,000 people in China were living with HIV/AIDS (Reuters, 2/17). BBC News reports that the number of AIDS-related deaths in the country is "increasing dramatically," with China's health ministry reporting less than 8,000 such deaths until three years ago. The number increased to five times as many deaths by 2008, according to BBC News.

Although data on HIV prevalence in China can still be "unreliable," there appears to be an improvement in official case reporting, and central authorities "seem more willing to recognize" HIV/AIDS as a public health issue, BBC News reports. It adds that concerns about under-reporting of cases at local and provincial levels still exist, and the latest data were released at a time when China has "entered a dangerous new phase" of its HIV epidemic as the main cause of transmission is thought to be through unprotected sex, rather than through blood collection practices or being focused in high-risk populations like injection drug users (McGivering, BBC News, 2/18).

According to Xinhuanet, tuberculosis ranked second and rabies ranked third in deadly infectious diseases in the country, followed by hepatitis and infant tetanus (Xinhuanet, 2/17). Additionally, the health ministry report showed a one-fifth increase in syphilis cases, with a total of 257,474 cases in 2008, and a one-tenth decrease in the number of gonorrhea cases, Reuters reports. The government on Sunday launched a national sex education campaign that aims to increase the number of people seeking treatment for sexually transmitted infections and infertility (Reuters, 2/17).

Reprinted with kind permission from kaisernetwork. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives, or sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork/dailyreports/healthpolicy. The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published for kaisernetwork, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

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