Foreign HIV/AIDS patients on the rise in China

This picture taken on November 30, 2015 shows volunteers holding red ribbons above a piece of paper written in Chinese that reads ''Red ribbons bring warmth to everyone to prevent AIDS" during an event for World Aids Day in Chongqing.

More than 1,800 HIV/AIDS cases involving people from outside the Chinese mainland-mostly foreigners-were diagnosed between January and October, according to a top Chinese specialist.

Such cases are continuing to rise due to increased international exchanges, the specialist added.

The latest figure compares with 1,500 cases recorded in July last year covering the previous three years.

Despite an increase in cases among expatriates, the government's anti-AIDS efforts, particularly free medication, will focus only on Chinese citizens due to limited funding. This was made clear by Wu Zunyou, head of the National Center for AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Disease Control and Prevention.

It means most foreign patients are not covered by China's AIDS intervention system, which includes a patient's follow-up monitoring network and free antiviral medication.

At least 9,000 foreigners have been diagnosed with HIV/AIDS on the mainland since the centre's epidemic surveillance system started operating in 2005. But the centre does not know if they are still in China.

The majority of expatriates with HIV/AIDS are aged between 20 and 45 and at least half of them became infected through heterosexual activities. The second leading cause was intravenous drug use.

Wu said most of these foreigners lived in Yunnan, Guangdong and Fujian provinces and Beijing.

They underwent HIV testing at various outlets. These included voluntary free testing clinics run by the government, institutions carrying out premarital medical checks, and border checkpoints during random screening.

Zhao Yan, a treatment specialist at the national centre, said foreigners confirmed to have HIV must pay for their own treatment, adding that there are exceptions in Yunnan. This province had nearly half of the total foreigners with the disease, with most of them coming from neighbouring countries such as Myanmar and Vietnam. More than 600,000 foreigners were living on the Chinese mainland, according to the latest census conducted in 2010.