Yunnan province has reported 9,723 new cases of HIV/AIDS in the first ten months of 2016. The provincial government has said that the vast majority of the new cases were caused by unprotected sex; however, given Yunnan’s geographical proximity to the infamous “Golden Triangle” and its unusually high number of infections, the problem obviously runs deeper than just an ignorance of condoms.
Recent data from HIV/AIDS prevention authorities, reported by China’s official Xinhua news agency, shows that almost a quarter of the new cases in China are from Yunnan, a province that accounts for less than 4% of China’s total population. That same data revealed that 92.6% of new cases in Yunnan province are related to unprotected sex. This is a 1.2% increase from last year.
The second largest driver of HIV/AIDS in the province is intravenous drugs. This factor accounted for 6.3% of new cases from January to October of this year. Yunnan has notoriously been linked to drug trafficking due to its location in the Lancang-Mekong region, 5,000 kilometers of river spanning China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, otherwise known as the “Golden Triangle.”
The report found that a growing community of “foreigners” living with HIV/AIDS along the provincial border, account for 9.5% of the new cases.
Over the past three months, China, as part of a six-nation joint-operation to crack down on the drug trade in the Golden Triangle region, seized 12.7 tons of narcotics, arrested 9,927 suspects and confiscated a huge number of firearms, Chinese police said on Monday. Could this be where Jesse Pinkman is awaiting the next season of Breaking Bad?
Official data released in June 2015 also showed that the amount of heroin and methamphetamine seized in Yunnan accounted for 80% of the country’s total.
So, could it be possible then that the disproportionate HIV/AIDS problem in Yunnan is more closely linked to drugs than the statistics would suggest? Considering 23.3 tons of illegal narcotics were seized in Yunnan in 2015, according to Global Times. Yes, it is possible.
After all, in Yunnan, a high proportion of those battling with HIV/AIDS are drug addicts, sex workers or both. You can see the problem…
As World AIDS Day draws near, China’s first lady, has shown her continued support to the cause, calling on societies to work together to improve the level of HIV/AIDS prevention. Inspiring stuff.
Still, it’s not clear that China is doing enough to address it’s own problems with the virus. Last year, a national survey estimated that 575,000 people in China were living with HIV/AIDS, a growing number of them young urban males who have unprotected with other men. From an abysmal sex education system, to police tactics that discourage prostitutes from using condoms, it still seems like the HIV/AIDS crisis in China is going to get worse before it starts to get better.
Though, to be fair, the country has made some admirable efforts in the past year to curb the problem. China is now offering free antiviral therapy for all of its citizens living with HIV/AIDS, and last month a Sichuan university introduced a vending machine on campus selling discounted HIV test kits.
By Seamus Gibson
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