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Words in the News
Wednesday 12 November 2003
AIDS in China: ignorance about the disease
Aids in China The former American President, Bill Clinton, has urged the Chinese government to do more about AIDS and to do it quickly. A worldwide survey commissioned by the BBC shows that people in China are among the world's most ignorant about AIDS and the HIV virus. This report from Elizabeth Blunt
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Perhaps the most startling result of the BBC survey was that fourteen percent of the people they talked to in China didn't even know what AIDS was, the worst result in any of the countries included; they couldn't identify it as a disease, or a virus, or something that you might die from. And these weren't impoverished peasants cut off from the wider world; they lived in five of China's largest cities, and they were available to be interviewed on the telephone. Those who did know what AIDS was were asked more questions. Was AIDS one of their main concerns, they were asked. On the whole it wasn't; most people were more worried about other health problems. And did they know how you could catch the virus? On this point the Chinese respondents were quite well informed -- nearly ninety per cent correctly identified the three main routes of infection -- unprotected sex, dirty hypodermic needles, and mother-to-child transmission. But a third thought -- quite wrongly -- that you could also catch it from using the same lavatory as an infected person, and nearly as many thought sharing personal items like cups and towels could spread the virus. In China, for Bill Clinton to shake hands with an infected person sent a powerful message.

The full result of the survey -- which covered fifteen countries -- will be published next Sunday as part of the BBC's season of special programmes about the AIDS and HIV epidemic.

Elizabeth Blunt, BBC, London

Listen Listen to the words
unexpected and very surprising
very poor
cut off
separated from
the wider world
people and ideas outside a person’s own living area
On the whole
true in general, but not in every detail
people who answer a questionnaire or a request for information of some kind
hypodermic needles
a medical instrument with a hollow needle which is used to give injections
quite wrongly
mistakenly, completely incorrectly
a powerful message
in this context, an action which can have a strong effect on people’s feelings and ideas
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