When AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) was first reported in the West, the Chinese rejoiced at their physical distance from the incurable, fatal disease. This optimism did not last long. The first AIDS case in China was reported in 1985. By the end of September 1999, HIV-positive cases have been reported in every one of the thirty-one provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities in China. The total number has reached 15,088. Most HIV-infected persons live in the countryside. Among the reported cases, 477 have developed full-blown AIDS and 240 have already died. To date, the real HIV-positive population is estimated to be over 400,000. Cases are increasing at such a dramatic rate that medical experts expect the figure to reach one million by the year 2000.
The fourteen years since the first reported case of HIV/AIDS in 1985 can be divided into three phases. The first phase, from 1985 to 1988, was characterized by a small number of "imported cases".
The majority of infected persons during this time were foreigners or overseas Chinese.
The second phase, between 1989 and 1993, can be described as a limited epidemic. It started in October 1989 when 146 drug users in southwest Yunnan Province were tested positive for HIV. During this period, the majority of reported HIV infections in China were among drug users in Yunnan. At the same time, a small number of HIV infections were reported among STD patients, sex-workers and laborers returning from overseas.
The third phase started in late 1994 when HIV transmission spread beyond Yunnan Province. The national figure for HIV infection grew dramatically with a considerable number reported among drug users and commercial plasma donors from various regions. Increasing numbers of drug-related HIV infections were reported in the provinces of Sichuan, Xinjiang, and Guangxi. At the...