On World AIDS Day Tuesday, the World Health Organization said people in China aged 60 or above are contracting HIV at a faster rate than any other age group.
Over 37,000 new HIV infections were recorded among this age group in 2019 alone, accounting for one-quarter of all new infections in the country that year, according to the WHO’s post on social app WeChat. As much as 77% of the new cases in this age group were men — some 28,700 infections, or five times more than in 2010.
Unsafe sexual behavior was the main reason for the uptick. The WHO revealed that 60% of Chinese men over 60 with HIV said they had contracted the virus via paid sexual services. Another 30% believed they caught it from casual sexual behavior, such as an affair or a one-night stand.
While young people, especially teenagers, have access to health education and AIDS awareness-raising initiatives — in Shanghai, for example, some universities have installed vending machines selling HIV test kits for 30 yuan ($4.60) each — the elderly are rarely equipped with the same knowledge or resources.
Wang Lin, head nurse at the Shanghai Public Health Clinical Center’s AIDS ward, told Sixth Tone she has seen a surge in the number of senior patients over the past two years.
“Many such patients barely know anything about the disease, so they end up at one of two extremes,” she said. “Some believe it’s not a big deal, and don’t cooperate when we attempt to treat them. Others feel there’s no hope of survival, and just want their lives to end.”
According to Wang, seniors who contract the virus are more likely to be abandoned by their families, compared with younger patients. “Some have been left in our ward for a long time,” she said.
By the end of 2019, there were 960,000 people in China living with HIV. Last year alone, 34,500 AIDS patients in the country died. The WHO’s WeChat post reminded readers that unprotected sex remains the virus’ most common transmission route in China.
Editor: David Paulk.
(Heade image: People Visual)