It’s World AIDS Day once again and we have yet more bad news: The city of Shanghai has seen a rise in the rate of new cases of HIV in the last year, continuing a troubling trend of the virus’s growing impact on young urban men in China.
By November 20th of this year, 2,106 new cases of HIV had been diagnosed in Shanghai, that number is up 7.5% from the same period last year, reports Shine, citing figures from the Shanghai Commission of Health and Family Planning.
More than 90% of those newly infected with HIV were men with sexual transmission accounting for 96.3% of new HIV cases and gay sex responsible for 57.7% of that proportion.
These are the same sort of percentages that we’ve seen in recent years and mark a dramatic shift in HIV cases in China over the past few decades, from rural farmers to the country’s urban elite.
Before 2009, most HIV infections in China were not transmitted by sex, but rather through drug use, blood transfusions and a mysterious “unknown” factor that got as high as 17.5%, according to data from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention. In fact, from 1985 to 2005, around 30% of China’s HIV infections were caused by the country’s shady blood trade.
While the government has been doing an admirable job of cracking down on the illegal blood trade as well as drug use, it’s been struggling to educate its young people on the importance of practicing safe sex with the country’s abysmal sex education system being partly to blame.
Looking to slow down the rate of new infections, the Shanghai government has recently instituted a plan aimed at providing more resources for those at risk. All local community health service centers have set up areas where locals can get ask questions about HIV/AIDS, as well as get access to equipment for quick testing.
In a more controversial move, the Chinese government is also promoting the use traditional Chinese medicine to treat patients with HIV/AIDS. According to Wang Jian, vice director of the Traditional Chinese Medicine Center for AIDS Prevention and Treatment at the China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences, one of the key missions of Beijing’s five-year plan for domestic HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment is to combine TCM and Western medicine.
“Western medicine is to cure certain symptoms, which focuses on anti-virus, while TCM is to cure the person who has the illness. TCM can strengthen a patient’s immune system to counter the virus. It can protect the patients’ internal organs and ease side effects caused by Western medicines,” Wang told the Global Times.
Of course, actual medical evidence for TCM treatments helping HIV/AIDS patients is scant. There have been more reported cases of TCM charlatans fooling people with fake cures. Earlier this year, a top TCM hospital in Hangzhou also raised alarm after announcing that it had accidentally infected five patients with HIV.
According to official data, China now has about 718,270 people living with HIV/AIDS.