96,000 new HIV cases were reported in China over the first nine months of 2016

1 December 2016: Today is World AIDS Day – a day dedicated to raising the awareness of AIDS and the spread of HIV whilst remembering those who have sadly died from the disease.

In China, the increase of HIV amongst young men as well as people over 60 has become an increasing concern. The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention presented figures of 96,000 new HIV cases in China over the first nine months of the year. 115,000 new cases were reported over the entirety of 2015, which suggests 2016 figures will most likely supersede last year.

China accounts for 3% of new HIV cases worldwide and 2% of the total HIV-positive global population.

UNAids country director in China, Catherine Sozi, said, “China is one of the countries with the best data but that comes at a price. By the time you know every gay man who is HIV positive or every female sex worker the disease has moved elsewhere.”

28% of the new cases reported this year involved men who have sex with men. 2015 also showed an increase in cases amongst young people and gay college students. It is feared that the stigma attached to homosexuality in China might deter people from being tested.

Dr Sozi believes the increase of new cases reported is a testament to the Chinese gay community’s efforts in persuading people to get tested.

A gay hook-up app called Blued, which has millions of users, has an Aids-education campaign  initiative that operates a number of several free testing centres in Beijing. The introduction of self-testing kits allows people to test themselves in private.

“Chinese society still has lots of misunderstanding toward homosexuality and Aids so affected people are reluctant to receive help from the government and NGOs,” says Blued founder Geng Le.

The growing concern in China about HIV and Aids also extends beyond the gay community in China and the younger generation. In 2015, 15% of new cases came from people over the age of 60. “A whole generation may know about Aids, they are aware, but they don’t think it has anything to do with them,” Dr Sozi said.

Premier Li Keqiang personally allocated money from the central government budget when international agencies stopped funding programmes in China in 2013. Chinese NGOs that focus on outreach to the considered at-risk groups are also eligible for grants, whilst provincial governments also allocate spending on Aids-related outreach.

Tuberculosis is a common killer of AIDS patients in Chinese society – especially among coal miners. As TB is a secondary infection, those who are affected are not included in the AIDS-related data, so perhaps the real figure is even bigger than projected.