“To contain the spread of HIV among youths, more forceful and targeted approaches are urgently needed, such as large-scale screening projects — like the one being carried out in Henan province — as well as high-profile peer education,“ Wu Zunyou, director of the National Center for AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Disease Control and Prevention, told China Daily.
Last year more than 1,600 students aged 15 to 24 were diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. This accounted for 1.8 percent of the cases detected that year.
The number stood at 482 in 2008, which was 0.9 percent of the yearly total.
“The epidemic has been striking these young students particularly hard in recent years,“ Wu said.
Among the infected students, 95.8 percent were males infected “mainly via gay sex transmission,“ he said.
In 2012, nearly 74 percent of male student detected were infected by male sexual partners. The figure was 58.5 percent in 2008. In 2012, more than half of the newly diagnosed cases among non-student youths were infected by the virus via unsafe heterosexual acts.
HIV screening and other services to deal with the disease among the students remain insufficient, Wu said.
Gottfried Hirnschall, director of the HIV/AIDS department of the World Health Organization, said, “Adolescents need health services as well, tailored to their needs. They are less likely than adults to be screened for HIV.“
An AIDS doctor surnamed Xu in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, citing his own work, said, “I’ve seen more students, even middle school ones, contracting HIV. A majority of them are gay and reported having unprotected gay sex,“ he said.
Without intervention, “it’s only a matter of time for HIV to spread widely on college campuses,“ he said.
Xu said the recent move by Henan authorities for freshmen to be tested on a voluntary basis helps raise HIV/AIDS awareness substantially. “It works much better than teachers lecturing students on the issue.“
Wu said improving students’ access to HIV screening and prevention is crucial in curbing the spread of HIV among the group.
Last year, about 110 million HIV tests were conducted, resulting in 90,000 diagnoses, he said.
About 22,000 AIDS-related deaths were reported in 2013, official statistics showed. Nearly half were diagnosed the same year.