China’s AIDS epidemic is growing and every year 70,000 more people become infected with HIV, according to a report released today by the Chinese Ministry of Health, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS and the World Health Organization (WHO).According to a statement released in Beijing, the report shows that around 650,000 people are now living with HIV in the country and that overall HIV prevalence is now estimated at approximately 0.05 percent.The UN Programme on HIV/AIDS, known as UNAIDS, and the WHO stressed that the figures show that “prevalence of HIV is not falling”, but rather is on the rise in China.The report urges immediate action to try and combat the disease. “There is clearly no room for complacency. Intensified prevention efforts are needed to stop the further spread of HIV in China and to keep the overall HIV prevalence low,” it says.The majority of all estimated HIV infections – approximately 80 per cent – were related to injecting drug use and commercial sex, according to the report. The epidemic is equally or more serious than previously thought in all parts of the country, except in central China where HIV transmission in connection with the sale of blood and blood plasma may have been overestimated in the past.UNAIDS and WHO commended the Chinese Government for working to improve its monitoring systems for the disease and urged authorities to use the results of the report to further scale up of HIV prevention, treatment and care programmes across the country.“China will continue to face challenges in surveillance and monitoring of the epidemic, and improvements in this area can and should be implemented in the future,” UNAIDS and WHO concluded.Earlier this month, UNAIDS said that despite important gains in political leadership and financial resources to fight AIDS, 3 million people died from the disease and 5 million people became newly infected with HIV last year alone. The agency warned that “vastly increased HIV prevention and treatment efforts are urgently needed to slow and reverse the AIDS epidemic.”Speaking at last year’s World AIDS Day on 1 December, Secretary-General Kofi Annan called on the international community to intensify its efforts to meet the Millennium Development Goal of reversing the epidemic by 2015.”For halting the spread of AIDS is not only a Millennium Development Goal in itself; it is a prerequisite for reaching most of the others,” he said, referring to the development targets to reduce extreme poverty and a range of other ills set by world leaders at the Millennium Summit in 2000.