According to the latest official statistics released by the Ministry of Health, around one in three cases of HIV involve gay or bisexual men in China, where the AIDS epidemic is becoming increasingly prevalent.
The ministry reports that about 5 percent of gay and bisexual men — or Men who have sex with men (MSM) — live with the virus, a rate that is 88 times higher than the national HIV rate of 0.057 percent.
Its statistics also revealed that MSM in certain parts of the country are more prone to the virus than others. China Daily reports that the infection rate is higher in major urban areas, with percentage of MSM with HIV in some southwestern cities being at nearly 20 percent.
The problem is exacerbated by the newly revealed lack of access to HIV screening for nearly 50 percent of MSM, and only approximately 15 percent of the infected actually receiving treatment. The current situation is now even receiving attention from the United Nations:
“Cities are at the heart of China’s development and progress and must remain at the forefront of its HIV response,” said Michel Sidibe, executive director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), during a workshop about the HIV impact on MSM on Saturday in Chengdu, capital of Southwest China’s Sichuan province.
Almost 10 percent of gay and bisexual men in Chengdu are HIV-positive, according to Yang Xiaoguang, director of the city’s health bureau. He agreed with Sidibe that cities have a crucial role to play in AIDS prevention and added: “By working to build a strong, multi-sector response in Chengdu, with meaningful community participation, we can scale-up coverage of prevention, treatment and care services among MSM and halt the spread of HIV.”
Senior Chinese health officials, representatives from civil societies and other delegates cooperated in the planning of a new five-year strategy that focuses on HIV prevention and treatment for the MSM population, while also promoting the participation of community organizations.
Though the governmental role is critical in combating a national epidemic like HIV, there is always necessary skepticism when it comes to officials involved with public health. The corruption and money laundering in Henan’s AIDS village in Shangcai prefecture several years ago featured lower city officials overcharging for medication and underpaying doctors. Time will tell if any official attitudes towards HIV/AIDS have changed since the 2005 scandal.
Image from China-aids.org
By Esther Kang