An official from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention warned that social discrimination against HIV carriers may be more dangerous than the virus itself.
Discrimination has caused people with risky behavior to become reluctant to be tested for HIV, posing a challenge for HIV control and prevention efforts, Wu Zunyou, director of the CDC HIV/AIDS prevention and control center, was quoted as saying in the Thursday edition of the China Youth Daily.
According to an earlier report jointly produced by the Ministry of Health, the Joint United Nations Program on HIV and AIDS and the World Health Organization, there were about 780,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in China as of the end of September last year, with infections among the student population rising.
Sexual relations are the main source of the infections, accounting for 63.9 percent of the total number of cases, Wu said, adding that the number of HIV-positive gay males also increased.
Infections transmitted via homosexual behavior accounted for 13 percent of the total cases in the first nine months of 2011, an increase from 2.5 percent in 2006, Wu said.
Sexually transmitted HIV cases among homosexual men are spreading more quickly in cities with more dense populations, such as Beijing, Shanghai and Chengdu, Wu said.
Wu said a lack of awareness regarding HIV/AIDS risks, as well as a failure to refrain from engaging in risky sexual activity, have made gay males more susceptible to infection.
Wu called on suspected patients to seek out HIV testing as soon as possible, as an early diagnosis and treatment can reduce mortality and stop the disease from spreading.
However, some patients are reluctant to do so for fear that they may be discriminated against by others, Wu said.
Wu said authorities have made efforts to eliminate discrimination by promoting public awareness of the disease, adding that several groups have volunteered to provide advice, guidance and intervention for high-risk people.