Why is university still "ground zero" for China's AIDS problem?

Source:People.cn Published: 2016/9/27 11:18:18

Over the last few years, the proportion of university students in China infected with AIDS has increased significantly. The city of Nanchang, located in China's southeastern Jiangxi province, has seen a 43 percent increase in the number of university students infected.

Other cities are experiencing a similar trend. As of January 2015, of Beijing's reported 3,000 AIDS, the proportion made up of students is rising. From 2014-15, Shanghai's number of infected students increased by 31.4 percent. 

China's Center for Disease Control and Prevention issued statistics showing that 65 percent of infected students contracted the virus between 18 and 22 years of age, typically during their undergraduate studies. 

The Director of the STD and AIDS Prevention Center at China's CDC, Wu Zunyou, addressed several causes beneath the rise in sexually transmitted diseases. According to statistics from the National Health and Family Planning Commission, 81.6 percent of AIDS-infected university students contracted the virus through homosexual intercourse. Wu believes that many male students feel liberated from the intense pressures of high school and are intrigued by the novelty of homosexuality. They would like to "try it," but do not understand the risks involved. 

Wu also feels China's sex education is severely lacking. There's a negative stigma associated with openly teaching about sex, causing some schools to be reluctant. They fear the school will be labeled as a school with STD problems and experience a lack of applicants. Others point to the administration not taking sex education seriously. 

Students subsequently fail to cultivate a healthy understanding of sex and how to practice safe sex. This deficiency, combined with the fact that China's youth are growing increasingly open towards sex, makes the lack of reliable sexual education an even graver issue. 

Thus, those that have contracted AIDS lack the education to identify symptoms and seek medical assistance. A China Youth Daily report found that while 75 percent of Americans living with AIDS were aware of their condition, only 54 percent in China knew. Some fear the label of having AIDS may affect their employment opportunities and avoid getting tested. This type of self-destructive behavior not only leaves the patient worse off due to a lack of treatment, but also promotes further spreading.

In order to prevent the proliferation of AIDS, China's parents, schools, and respective governmental bodies must collectively implement practical measures and promote sex education. Communities must come together and engage in open dialogue about sex and how to practice it safely.

(This article is originally published on People's Daily official wechat account, translated by Luo Ensi and edited by Joanna Law)

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