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New Report Published on AIDScience.org Gives
Startling Information about China and HIV/AIDS
Although the Chinese government estimates that some 10 million of the country's citizens will be infected with HIV by 2010, a recent study published on AIDScience.orga website run by the journal Science and devoted to providing researchers with a centralized source of information on all aspects of AIDS prevention and vaccine developmentshows that the population as a whole knows startlingly little about the disease or its transmission.
With 1.3 billion people, China has the largest population of any country in the world, and the Chinese government estimates that some 850,000 people there already have HIV. Yet in a recent study of 7022 Chinese citizens, Deborah Holtzman, an epidemiologist with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, found that most of them understood neither the disease nor its prevention. Many of them had never heard of AIDS at all.
The study analyzed data from a government-funded survey of people between the ages of 15 and 49 years, from all different socioeconomic levels, in seven different counties in China. That survey was the first in the country to assess the general population's knowledge, attitudes, and perceptions related to HIV/AIDS. When the researchers examined the data, they discovered that a full 17 percent of the respondents had never heard of AIDS and more than half did not know what causes the disease. Sixty-seven percent of the respondents did know that AIDS can be transmitted through sexual intercourse. But more than 80 percent said they wouldn't avoid sexual intercourse even if they knew they were infected with HIV and more than 75% did not know that the disease could be prevented with condoms or avoiding unsafe blood transfusions and needle sharing.
In August 2001, the Chinese government admitted that it could be facing a serious AIDS epidemic in the next decade. AIDS seems to be spreading rapidly there because of widespread drug abuse and unprotected heterosexual sex. One point of good news in the study was that many of the respondents supported AIDS education in the secondary schools.
"AIDS is not grabbing front page headlines as it once did, but the need for information on this disease is great," says Monica Bradford, executive editor of Science. "AIDScience plays a critical role in conveying up-to-date information on the disease to scientists, clinicians, and the general public. Without increased dissemination of knowledge about HIV infection and means of prevention, we will never defeat this horrible disease."
Supported by an $850,000 grant from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), AIDScience is designed to serve AIDS prevention and vaccine researchers, and publishes peer-reviewed articles and reviews, as well as reports, commentaries, news and journal headlines, columns, discussion groups, daily features, a calendar of international meetings, and other information resources.
For more information, read full report on AIDScience.org.
Susan Davis and Marcia Triunfol
27 January 2003