|Prostitutes, Migrant Workers Spur Syphilis in China|
|Sunday, 08 November 2009 17:33|
Tags Syphilis - Migrant Workers - Prostitution - Public Health - MRN - Migrant Resource Network - China
Cases of syphilis are rising about 30 percent a year in China, spread mainly by poorly educated migrant workers and prostitutes, a health official from the world’s most populous nation said in a report.
China had 278,215 reported cases of syphilis in 2008, tripling from 2004 and a 10-fold increase from a decade ago, Xiang-Sheng Chen, deputy director of China’s National Center for Sexually Transmitted Diseases Control, said in an interview in the World Health Organization’s monthly bulletin.
China almost eradicated syphilis in the 1960s by closing brothels, providing free treatment for prostitutes and running a mass screening and propaganda campaign, Chen said in the interview published yesterday. The bacterial infection re- emerged in the 1980s as an economic boom increased migration to cities by rural workers seeking higher incomes, he said.
“Migrant workers, mainly young men who have left their wives back in their hometowns, make up much of the clientele of low-tier sex workers,” Chen said. It’s difficult to promote condom use among these prostitutes because “they are poorly educated and some cannot even afford a condom,” he said.
More than half of China’s syphilis patients don’t visit sexual health clinics because they often face stigma and their privacy isn’t protected, Chen said.
About 12 million people worldwide are infected with syphilis each year, according to the Geneva-based WHO. The bacterial disease can raise the risk of transmitting and acquiring HIV as much as fivefold, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on its Web site.
“If syphilis is common, that can have quite a sizeable impact on the transmission of HIV,” said Kit Fairley, director of the Melbourne Sexual Health Centre. “It is also true that people who have HIV and get syphilis are likely to get a more severe form of syphilis than they would if they didn’t have HIV,” Fairley said by phone today.