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Last Updated: Wednesday, 25 January 2006, 05:08 GMT
China lowers its HIV/Aids figures
Aids awareness among migrant workers in Chengdu of Sichuan Province, south-west China
Warning of a serious Aids epidemic in China continue
China has lowered its estimate of the number of HIV/Aids cases in the country, but health agencies continue to warn of a serious national problem.

China now believes it has about 650,000 people living with HIV, according to a joint statement by the health ministry, World Health Organization and UNAids.

In 2003 the government estimated that 840,000 people had the virus.

But with 70,000 new HIV infections last year, the crisis shows no signs of abating, the statement said.

On the rise

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, representatives from all three bodies said the number of HIV/Aids cases in China had been revised to 30% lower than the 2003 estimate.

But delegates cautioned against too much optimism - saying the lower figure was due to an overestimate in 2003 rather than a noticeable improvement in the situation.

"There is no room for complacency. The latest national estimates indicate that HIV/Aids remains on the rise in China," the joint statement said.

The lower figure "may lead some to believe [the situation] has improved," added the WHO's chief representative in China, Hank Bekedam.

"That is not so. With an estimated 70,000 new infections last year, we fear the number of infections this year will be even higher."

HIV/Aids is still a sensitive topic in China, and international groups have previously criticised the government in Beijing for not reacting to the problem fast enough.

UNAids has estimated that up to 10 million people could be infected by 2010 if aggressive prevention methods are not put in place.

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