China to prosecute deliberate AIDS infections

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china BEIJING (Reuters) - China will prosecute people who deliberately infect others with HIV, state media said on Wednesday.

"Those who know they are infected with AIDS or are sick with AIDS and deliberately infect others will be severely punished according to the law," the Beijing News said, citing an unnamed police officer as telling an AIDS prevention workshop.

It provided no details on what kind of sentences would be meted out, nor how police would prove the virus had knowingly been passed on by someone.

Police would also deal just as severely with criminal suspects who have AIDS as those who do not, the report said.

"For criminal suspects infected with AIDS, they cannot not be dealt with or given free rein just because they are infected," it quoted another unnamed official with the State Council's AIDS prevention office as adding.

China has been grappling with a surge in the number of HIV/AIDS cases, which the government last month said had risen almost 30 percent so far this year.

An estimated 650,000 people are living with HIV/AIDS in China, and health experts say the disease is moving into the general population.

Drug abuse this year accounted for 37 per cent of the new infections whose transmission routes had been determined, while unsafe sexual contact had caused 28 per cent, the Health Ministry said in November.

The official Xinhua news agency added in a late-night report seen on Wednesday that police would crack down on places where AIDS might spread, such as illegal blood collection centers and places were drug users and sex workers congregate.

HIV/AIDS became a major problem in China in the 1990s when hundreds of thousands of impoverished farmers became infected through botched blood-selling schemes.

After initially being slow to acknowledge the threat, China has stepped up the fight against HIV/AIDS, increasing spending on prevention programs and implementing anti-discrimination legislation.

But some non-governmental groups have complained of police harassment when carrying out AIDS prevention work, and the UN's main AIDS body has said the good intentions of the central government were not always enforced at the local level.

© Reuters 2006