AIDS in China overstated?

AIDS is the most political disease in history, even in China. From the subscription—only South China Morning Post we learn that government officials in China believe that the extent of AIDS in China may have been overstated by about 20%:

Authorities are reportedly in a bind over how to announce a new and supposedly more accurate HIV estimate that is significantly lower than previous figures.

Senior officials said the assessment was now being verified by the World Health Organisation and UNAids experts. However, UNAids said it was waiting for Chinese officials to finalise the assessment.

Hao Yang , a deputy director of disease control with the Ministry of Health, admitted that the joint assessment for last year by the central government and UNAids was lower than the 2003 assessment, but the final figure would have to be announced by the government.

A government source also said the new assessment was significantly lower than the 2003 estimate of 840,000 HIV carriers. Although the final figure may change at the last minute, the new estimate could be up to 20 per cent lower than the original figure.

Significantly, government officials are concerned that if they announce a lower figure, people will merely assume they are covering up bad news. In recent times, China has been embarrassed when it attempted to sugarcoat public health disasters such as chemical pollution in Harbin or the earlier SARS outbreak. It appears that the government realizes it has a credibility problem.

The second reason for concern, though, is remarkable: a fear that fewer resource might be made available for AIDS.

Another worry is whether a lower—than—expected prevalence would dampen the enthusiasm of the central government and international agencies for injecting resources into Aids prevention and treatment.

It is unclear who is doing the worrying, but presumably it would be officials whose careers and possibly pocketbooks depend on AIDS being a big concern. In other words, AIDS in China, like AIDS everywhere else, is a "special" disease, whose advocates seem to think it is worthy of more support per sufferer than other diseases. And which supports a larger array of programs and careers than other disease, proportionate to its impact on the populace.

It goes without saying that AIDS is a terrible afflication. But the seemingly universal tendency of those who fight it to regard their cause as more important than other plagues is rather repellant.

Hat tip: Brian Schwarz

Thomas Lifson  12 04 05

AIDS is the most political disease in history, even in China. From the subscription—only South China Morning Post we learn that government officials in China believe that the extent of AIDS in China may have been overstated by about 20%:

Authorities are reportedly in a bind over how to announce a new and supposedly more accurate HIV estimate that is significantly lower than previous figures.

Senior officials said the assessment was now being verified by the World Health Organisation and UNAids experts. However, UNAids said it was waiting for Chinese officials to finalise the assessment.

Hao Yang , a deputy director of disease control with the Ministry of Health, admitted that the joint assessment for last year by the central government and UNAids was lower than the 2003 assessment, but the final figure would have to be announced by the government.

A government source also said the new assessment was significantly lower than the 2003 estimate of 840,000 HIV carriers. Although the final figure may change at the last minute, the new estimate could be up to 20 per cent lower than the original figure.

Significantly, government officials are concerned that if they announce a lower figure, people will merely assume they are covering up bad news. In recent times, China has been embarrassed when it attempted to sugarcoat public health disasters such as chemical pollution in Harbin or the earlier SARS outbreak. It appears that the government realizes it has a credibility problem.

The second reason for concern, though, is remarkable: a fear that fewer resource might be made available for AIDS.

Another worry is whether a lower—than—expected prevalence would dampen the enthusiasm of the central government and international agencies for injecting resources into Aids prevention and treatment.

It is unclear who is doing the worrying, but presumably it would be officials whose careers and possibly pocketbooks depend on AIDS being a big concern. In other words, AIDS in China, like AIDS everywhere else, is a "special" disease, whose advocates seem to think it is worthy of more support per sufferer than other diseases. And which supports a larger array of programs and careers than other disease, proportionate to its impact on the populace.

It goes without saying that AIDS is a terrible afflication. But the seemingly universal tendency of those who fight it to regard their cause as more important than other plagues is rather repellant.

Hat tip: Brian Schwarz

Thomas Lifson  12 04 05