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Wednesday, 1 November, 2000, 15:01 GMT
China wages war on Aids
China HIV graph
HIV rates in China are soaring
By Science correspondent Julian Siddle

China is drafting new laws to curb the spread of Aids, which it estimates will affect one million people within the next decade.

The new measures could include punishing HIV/Aids carriers who intentionally infect others, a report in the state media said on Friday.

Health officials are also locked in debate over whether to provide condoms and sex education to prostitutes and their clients.

condoms
Sex remains a largely taboo subject in China
According to the China Daily medical experts say that at least 500,000 people in the country are HIV positive and warn the number is expected to double within a decade.

However, the United Nations has estimated China will have 10 million cases by 2010 if the disease is left unchecked.

The China Daily says the Ministry of Health hopes to put the new HIV/Aids regulations into force soon, but it gives no timetable.

Measures under consideration include laws to punish those who intentionally infect others.

Legal doubts

But there is doubt over how the law can confirm whether or not an HIV/Aids patient has infected others intentionally.

Bar sign
Up to 10m women are thought to work in China's sex industry
Chen Baozhen, director of the infectious disease prevention office, says this would be tricky as most carriers do not know they are infected when they engage in unsafe sex, shared needles, or gave blood.

Under Chinese laws anyone infected with a sexually transmitted disease - who still engages in illicit sexual activity such as prostitution - can be jailed for up to five years.

However, the law does not count people infected with HIV/Aids as carriers of sexually transmitted diseases.

Many people are not ready to accept the distribution of condoms in hotels and universities.

Sex remains a largely taboo subject in China where the majority of the population continues to ignore the risks of HIV/Aids infection.

At the end of last year, the Chinese authorities banned an advertising campaign for condoms because it went against "all our customs and ethics".

China ranks fourth among Asian countries in its number of HIV-positive people, following India, Thailand and Burma.

The registered number of AIDS cases on the Chinese mainland has surpassed 20,000 by the end of September.

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See also:

14 Jul 00 | Asia-Pacific
Aids spreads in China
05 Apr 00 | Asia-Pacific
China Aids warning
02 Dec 99 | Health
China bans condom advert
01 Dec 99 | World
UN highlights Aids orphans
23 Nov 99 | Health
HIV hits 50 million
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