In the dark about safe sex: HIV/Aids spreads among China’s elderly

  • Cases up by more than 130 per cent in five years among men aged 60 and over, report says
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 29 November, 2018, 5:33pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 November, 2018, 9:58pm

HIV and Aids infection rates are rising among elderly Chinese, due to a lack of understanding about safe sex and a reluctance to discuss it with doctors, a Shanghai-based online news outlet reported on Tuesday.

“More and more elderly people are being infected,” Thepaper.cn quoted a Hangzhou Disease Control and Prevention Centre official as saying.

“The biggest reason is that the elderly lack awareness of self-protection and do not know much about Aids. They are not used to using condoms and are uncomfortable going to the doctor about this.”

Medical staff at the centre said the earlier the virus was detected, the better the treatment prospects but elderly people were more likely to report the disease at a later stage and so had a greater risk of dying from HIV/Aids.

The centre urged people to get tested if they have ever had an extramarital affair, had gay sex, or thought their partner had.

The report said the biggest increase in infection was among Chinese men aged 60 and older, with the number of new HIV/Aids cases up 136 per cent in five years from 8,391 in 2012 to 19,815 in 2017.

In September, Chinese officials said the number of HIV cases had risen 14 per cent nationwide in the year so far compared with 2017. More than 100,000 new infections are reported in China every year according to government figures, with many cases transmitted through unprotected sex rather than blood transfusions, which are another major source of HIV infection.

HIV/Aids patients still face rejection and discrimination in China’s leading hospitals

In Hangzhou in eastern China’s Zhejiang province, Aids cases among the elderly rose by half in three years, the report said.

While young people accounted for most of the province’s 4,413 reported HIV/Aids cases, a growing number were among the elderly, the report said.

More elderly men were becoming infected through extramarital affairs, although gay sex also was a major factor, according to the report. Elderly women were most likely to contract the disease through their male partners, it said.

A Hangzhou woman in her sixties and widowed for a decade said she learned she was HIV positive when a tumour was found in her uterus during a medical examination. She contracted the virus by having sex with a man who had used prostitutes.

There is no cure for HIV/Aids, but it can be managed with antiretroviral medication.

More than 820,000 people in China are estimated to have HIV/Aids, according to government data.

Shanghai cafe staffed by children of HIV patients

Although the virus first entered the mainland in 1982, it still carries a huge stigma in Chinese society because of its association with the LGBT community. The targets of discrimination can include family members, employers and even medical professionals, even though Chinese law deems such practices illegal.

The virus has also been back in the news this week with Chinese scientist He Jiankui claiming that he and a team of researchers edited the genes of twin girls who were born to an HIV-positive father.

He said his goal was to add a trait that few people naturally had – an ability to resist infection from HIV. But critics say the DNA changes can pass to future generations, risking harm to other genes.