HIV still a serious problem for young on mainland

PUBLISHED : Monday, 14 December, 2015, 5:48pm
UPDATED : Monday, 14 December, 2015, 5:48pm

The article (“Student HIV risk rises as sex education fails”, December 1) was highly appropriate for World Aids Day.

Being an HIV/AIDS specialist visiting China, this issue is closest to my heart. It is a serious problem given the ferocity of the virus with which it can transmit.

It appears that young individuals are completely oblivious of its risks and hidden dangers. In ratio of the total Chinese population, infection rate is considered milder by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention in the US. It is in sharp contrast to this alarming surge with diagnosis of over 14,000 cases in the first 10 months of 2015. More surprising is the fact that HIV is being transmitted in the younger age category (15 to 24 years) of predominantly gay men – a pattern not seen in recent times. The total number of people living with HIV/Aids in China is 575,000, with 177,000 individuals having died of Aids. Sexual transmission is the main cause: overall, infection through heterosexual contact accounts for 66.6 per cent and homosexual for 27.2 per cent of total HIV cases.

This sudden surge of HIV infections suggests a breakdown of sex education and HIV awareness in certain sectors of Chinese society. It is surprising because China has excellent awareness campaigning, but the younger age category has failed to translate these messages by the government into action.

Universities and colleges are breeding grounds for nefarious sexual activities and drug use, as there is no parental control. The smell of freedom misguides these young and malleable minds, which, despite knowing about HIV, never thought it will hit them. In order to halt this transmission, the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention has the onus to identify index cases, which led to this clustered transmission. It calls for mandatory HIV testing prior to college entry, so that there is no repeat of such an event.

It is also important because many homosexuals can be bisexuals, posing even greater risk of both hetero and homosexual transmissions. Partners who know their HIV-plus status should not engage in unprotected sex. It is unlawful not to tell the partner your HIV status, at least in Western countries.

The important message is that drugs don’t cure Aids. The young generation should not be complacent and should think hard before engaging in sex and know whom they are engaging with. Aids can be controlled by the right behaviour.

Dr Nitin Saksena, Kellyville, New South Wales, Australia