September 9, 2007 / 4:35 AM / 12 years ago

China reports leap in new HIV/AIDS cases

BEIJING (Reuters) - China reported 18,543 new cases of HIV/AIDS in the first half of this year, state media said, near the number for the whole of 2006.

Drug abuse was the main cause of new infections, Xinhua news agency quoted Han Mengjie, an official with AIDS Control Work Committee of the State Council, as saying in a report on Saturday.

Han also warned of the danger of the virus spreading to the general public through unsafe sex and the greater migration of the infected population.

China has become increasingly open about AIDS in recent years, facing up to an epidemic once stigmatised as a disease of the West.

The nation had 214,300 officially registered cases of HIV/AIDS by late July, Xinhua said, an increase of five percent over the figure for April.

The United Nations estimates the true number of the killer disease in the country to be around 650,000.

Beijing backs campaigns to educate citizens on preventing infections, and victims infected through reckless commercial blood collection in the central province of Hunan have been given free medicines.

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