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Experts: Public education important; voluntary testing to be promoted
China has reported an increasing number of foreigners with HIV/AIDS entering the country since it lifted a travel ban in 2010, the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention said on Friday.
The number of reported HIV cases among foreigners seeking to enter China was 660 in 2010, which increased to 1,146 the next year and 2,154 last year, Han Mengjie, director of the National Center for AIDS/STD Control and Prevention, under China CDC, said at a news conference.
"With the number of inbound tourists expected to rise continuously in China due to more frequent international exchanges, more foreigners with HIV will be reported in China," he said. "More joint efforts from different departments are needed for control and prevention of HIV for expats in China."
It is important to improve education to promote voluntary testing, so people can get timely treatment if they are infected, Han said.
Before 2010, foreigners had to claim their HIV status when seeking a Chinese visa, and faced deportation if they were HIV positive.
Han said it has become a universal practice to allow entry of inbound passengers with HIV, with around 143 countries adopting the practice.
A majority of inbound HIV cases reported last year were foreign spouses of Chinese living in Southwest China, but the reported number of foreign students with HIV coming to China has kept rising rapidly－from 13 in 2010 to 100 last year, Han said.
Overall, the total number of newly reported HIV cases in China has been rising every year. Last year, 135,000 new cases were reported, a rise of 8 percent year-on-year, Wu Zunyou, chief epidemiologist of China CDC, said.
The major reason for the rise in reported cases is the increasing number of tests being carried out－200 million last year－twice as many as six years ago, he said.
The prevalence of HIV in China is 9 out of every 10,000 people, which is still low compared with many countries including the United States, Russia and India, he said. In the US, the prevalence of HIV is more than three times higher, he said.
Wang Bin, deputy chief for disease control and prevention at the National Health Commission, said 850,000 people were reported living with HIV in China by the end of September, although the total number of people who are believed to be infected in China is estimated at 1.25 million, which means about 30 percent of people with HIV in the country are not aware of their HIV status.
"We face very big challenges to reach the target of getting 90 percent of all HIV cases tested by 2020 so they are aware of their status," she said. "We will improve public education to promote voluntary testing."