A growing number of elderly people on the mainland are contracting HIV, mostly through unsafe sex with prostitutes, officials say. The Ministry of Health and UNAids estimate that the country has between 97,000 and 112,000 people infected with Aids. Mainland media has reported that one to two in 10 HIV carriers were aged 50 or over. Many of them were infected because of unprotected sex, including some in their 70s and 80s. In Guangxi , health authorities had found more than one-fifth of the reported 51,877 HIV carriers were over 50, and that an average of 12 new cases were reported every day, the China Youth Daily reported yesterday, ahead of World Aids Day today. Officials there warned that more than 60 per cent of HIV infections were transmitted through unprotected sex, and migrant workers and the elderly were the highest risk group. 'We have seen so many Aids patients aged in their 60s,' a doctor at the No4 People's Hospital in Nanning said. 'That's also because a growing number of elderly people have received Aids tests after unprotected sex, as Aids education has raised public awareness.' A similar situation was reported in Guangzhou, where the number of HIV carriers in this year's survey rose 1,449 in one year and many of the new carriers were elderly. Dr Wang Ming , director of the Guangzhou Disease Control Centre, attributed the increase to the low awareness of safe sex among old people when visiting sex workers. 'Many elderly patients we have talked to live empty lives after retirement and visit cheap brothels due to limited budgets. Very few of them are willing to wear condoms [believing they were already over the age of potency],' The Southern Metropolis News quoted him as saying. Wang said it was an urgent challenge to identify infected elderly people and prevent them transmitting the virus to other family members. In Jilin province , the number of infected people aged 50 and older has risen steadily since 2000, according to Wang Zhenyu , secretary general of the Changchun Aids Prevention and Control Association. 'We have seen the number of [Aids patients] over 65 years old grow from 0.34 to 3.4 per cent within nine years,' he was quoted as saying by yesterday's East Asia Economy and Trade News. He added that one of the oldest to have Aids was an 84-year-old man who had visited prostitutes and shunned protection. The man said he was lonely, his wife having died three decades ago. Commentators blamed loneliness and a lack of family care for forcing elderly people to visit brothels to seek someone to talk to and someone who would listen. 'Older people live empty lives, as young people are busy making a living, and there are very few entertainment options available to them,' Guangzhou columnist Zi Qiang said. He said family members, especially the younger generation, should provide more support to the elderly and encourage them to get involved in community activities so they did not feel abandoned.