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China’s state media said HIV/AIDS took the lives of approximately 7,000 people in the first 274 days of 2008. The human immunodeficiency virus became the top cause of death among infectious diseases, surpassing tuberculosis and rabies, apparently the first time this has occurred.
According to the government’s Ministry of Health, the number of victims was fewer than 8,000, until three years ago.
“In China, the disease is mainly transmitted sexually, but the virus initially spread because of unsanitary blood plasma-buying schemes and tainted transfusions in hospitals. The first reported case of Aids in China was in 1982. Three years later, the government announced the first death from the disease. Yet concerns persist that local officials are under-reporting the figures. The United Nations’ health and Aids bodies, for example, estimate that, by the end of 2007, 700,000 people in China were HIV positive. Local officials are thought still to be fearful of recriminations if their localities buck national trends. In the old days, sexually transmitted diseases were officially eradicated—the Communist Party’s grip on personal behaviour, as well as the gathering of statistics, was absolute” (Independent).
Education campaigns help inform citizens, especially those who are at a much greater risk of contracting the virus, particularly homosexual men and sex workers.