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November 20, 2003

AIDS, addition, division & multiplication....

The Economist has an article on AIDS in China up. No need to read it, the same old vanilla. Note this:


  1. "In 1990, around 1% of adults in both South Africa and Thailand were infected with the HIV virus. Tackling the problem head on, Thailand has managed to keep the rate at roughly the same level. By 2001, however, South Africa had pulled its head from the sand to find that its own rate had sky-rocketed to nearly 25% of adults, according to figures from the United Nations."
  2. "Unless China acts decisively, it will find itself on an African trajectory, just 15 years behind."
  3. " The UN reckons the prevalence of HIV infection among China's adult population now stands at around 0.1% but says that, on current trends, the country may have some 10m infections and 260,000 children orphaned as a result of AIDS by 2010."

The absolute numbers are sobering, but 10 million infections in a nation of 1.3 billion individuals is 0.8% HIV infection rates (to be sure, eight times greater than 0.1% of today). If you connect the dots, the article seems to imply that in 2018 China might have something closer to the 25% infection rates of South Africa than the 2% of Thailand. But in 2010 China's infection rate will be 0.8%, so how much do you bet that by 2018 it will be much above the 2% of Thailand???

I'm not intending to discourage the Chinese government from taking pro-active steps to combat the spread of AIDS, but non-governmental variables are also crucial to the spread of infection. Most non-governmental variables in China are closer in nature to Thailand than South Africa-at least that's what I've read, perhaps someone who has been to all three countries could enlighten me. In any case, this perpetual shell game of swapping percentages, growth rates and absolute figures throughout articles seems to be calibrated toward heightening alarmism. I thought The Economist was the penance that British journalism pays the world to make up for its dailies....

Posted by razib at 03:01 PM