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Older population reports highest rate of increase in HIV infections in China: WHO

â–²University volunteers from Xi’an, Northwest China’s Shaanxi Province attach ribbons to a billboard to mark World AIDS Day, which falls on December 1 every year. Photo: VCG

The number of HIV-infected people aged 60 and above in China has reached 37,000, accounting for 25 percent of all newly reported infections, according to the latest report from the World Health Organization on Tuesday, World AIDS Day.

The report also showed that the number of newly diagnosed HIV infections among men aged 60 and above in 2019 was 500 percent more than that of 2010. The proportion of older men infected through paid sex is 60 percent, and 30 percent of the older men were infected through non-paid sex, such as romantic encounters or one-night stands.

In 2019, a 68-year-old man who tested positive for HIV committed suicide by drinking poison not long after being discharged from hospital.

At present, unprotected sex between men and women or between men and men is the main route of transmission in China.

According to the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS), there were 1.7 million new HIV infections and 690,000 AIDS-related deaths worldwide in 2019. In China, AIDS remains the leading infectious disease with the highest number of reported deaths, although the overall epidemic remains at a comparatively low level.

Wu Zunyou, the chief epidemiologist of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, pointed out that as a result of better living standards and health conditions, older people, especially older men, are becoming more sexually active after retirement. Due to the loss of a spouse or having a partner who is no longer interested in sex, some older men are turning to sexual services, while some prostitutes do not use condoms. 

Wu also warned that the rise in elderly infections has far outpaced the rise of the elderly population.

Not using condoms during sex, receiving unsafe blood transfusions, and touching contaminated injecting equipment are all actions that may bring a risk of HIV infection.

China’s State Council issued the Health China Initiative (2019-2030) in 2019, which clearly states that the overall HIV and AIDS infection rate should be below 0.15 percent and 0.2 percent by 2022 and 2030, respectively.

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