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Wednesday, 28 November, 2001, 13:59 GMT
China's Aids victims 'exceed one million'
Chinese woman looks at a display at a sex education exhibition in Beijing
China is becoming more aware of the need for condoms
A report by the United Nations warns that China is on the verge of an Aids epidemic of catastrophic proportions.

The report, from the UN Programme on Aids, estimates that by the end of last year up to one-and-a-half million people in China were infected with HIV, the virus that causes Aids.

That's up from five-hundred-thousand two years earlier. The agency says unless effective measures are taken, the number of infected people in China could rise to ten million by two-thousand-and-ten.

The Chinese government has already promised to improve the screening of blood, after tens of thousands of rural villagers became infected after selling their blood to donation centres that didn't use proper safety procedures.

But the report says China needs to do more to promote safe sex and the use of sterile needles in injections. (Many people in China don't know how the disease is spread, wrongly thinking it can be contracted through mosquito bites or shaking hands.

The United Nations programme on AIDS says China is on the verge of an AIDS catastrophe. In a damning report released on Thursday, the UN body is warning that unless attitudes in China change dramatically it faces an AIDS epidemic of massive proportions. From Beijing, Rupert Wingfield-Hayes reports.) The UN report doesn't pull any punches. 'We are now witnessing,' it says, 'the unfolding of an AIDS epidemic of proportions beyond belief.' In the last year alone the number of people in China infected with HIV has grown by fifty percent. There are now estimated to be between one, and one and a half million people carrying the HIV virus. By the end of the decade, the UN says, that number will be ten million, unless drastic action is taken now to change attitudes. China's government has belatedly acknowledged it is facing an AIDS crisis. But the UN report says it is still doing far too little to raise awareness across the country. It says many Chinese people still know virtually nothing about AIDS, believing it can be caught through mosquito bites, or by shaking hands with an infected person. The UN is urging China's political leaders to take the lead, by publicly espousing safe sex. But in China's conservative culture, where even talking about sex is taboo, there are huge obstacles to be overcome. Rupert Wingfield-Hayes, BBC News,

See also:

16 Nov 01 | Asia-Pacific
China demands cheaper Aids drugs
13 Nov 01 | Asia-Pacific
Closed door mars China Aids meeting
31 Aug 01 | Asia-Pacific
Aids toll rises in Thailand
12 Feb 01 | Asia-Pacific
Thais battle firms over Aids drugs
11 Sep 01 | Asia-Pacific
China court orders Aids compensation
23 Aug 01 | Asia-Pacific
China comes clean on Aids
05 Oct 01 | Asia-Pacific
Asia warned of Aids epidemic
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