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Gay sex poses HIV threat for youths in China

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BEIJING – More targeted approaches are needed to fight the increasing threat of HIV and AIDS among Chinese students aged 15 to 24, a senior health official said on Thursday.
 The Director of the National Centre for AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Disease Control and Prevention, Wu Zunyou said.
“To contain the spread of HIV among youths, more forceful and targeted approaches are urgently needed.
“Such as large-scale screening projects like the one being carried out in Henan province as well as high-profile peer education.
“Securing sufferers’ privacy and rights also remains key,’’ Wu said.
In 2013, over 1,600 students aged 15 to 24 were diagnosed with HIV and AIDS, accounting for 1.8 per cent of the cases detected that year, the latest figures from a nationwide health surveillance network showed.
He said that the number stood at 482 in 2008, which was 0.9 per cent of the yearly total.
“The epidemic has been striking these young students particularly hard in recent years.
“Epidemiological studies found that gay sex was a leading cause for the increase among the group.
“Among the infected students, 95.8 per cent were males infected mainly via gay sex transmission,’’ he said.
He added that in 2012, nearly 74 per cent of male student sufferers detected were infected by male sexual partners.
Among the non-student youths infected, males accounted for nearly 72 per cent, much lower than that among their student peers.
In 2012, over half of the newly diagnosed cases among non-student youths were infected by the virus via unsafe heterosexual acts.
“HIV screening and other services to deal with the disease among the students remain insufficient,’’ Wu said.
An AIDS doctor surnamed Xu in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, cited his own work experience to highlight the challenges.
“I have seen more students, even middle school ones, contracting HIV, a majority of them are gay and reported having unprotected gay sex,” he said.
“Without intervention, it’s only a matter of time for HIV to spread widely on college campuses.’’
Xu said that the recent move by Henan authorities for freshmen to be tested on a voluntary basis helped raise HIV and AIDS awareness substantially.
“It works much better than teachers lecturing students on the issue,’’ he stressed.
Wu said improving students’ access to HIV screening and prevention was crucial in curbing the spread of HIV among the group.
Report says official statistics showed about 22,000 AIDS-related deaths were reported in 2013 and nearly half were diagnosed the same year. (Xinhua/NAN)

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