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Mystery of China's AIDS 'patients'

Patients with AIDS-like symptoms but who test negative for HIV may be suffering from AIDS phobia, Shanghai medical experts said yesterday in response to reports in the Hong Kong media. Such patients may have indulged in highly risky behavior, causing them extreme mental pressure, they said. "It is not new in clinical practice and I have seen many such patients in Shanghai," said Dr Lu Hongzhou, vice president of Shanghai Public Health Center and a leading AIDS expert. "These people suffer serious mental pressure while suspecting they have been infected with the HIV virus and compare their own symptoms with those of AIDS. However, they have received many tests and all negative. It is actually AIDS phobia," Lu said. According to the Hong Kong-based Oriental Daily News, at least six provincial regions on China's mainland reported patients with so-called negative AIDS and said the mysterious virus could spread through saliva and blood. Cases begun to appear in Hong Kong, the newspaper said, with similar cases in Taiwan and Singapore. The newspaper said thousands of patients in Beijing, Shanghai, and Zhejiang, Jiangsu, Hunan and Guangdong provinces had developed the "disease." Patients with negative AIDS report swollen lymph glands, bleeding under the skin and small hairs growing on their tongue, said the paper, which also claimed that the disease was incurable and the virus a mystery to disease experts. The patients reported symptoms similar to those of HIV carriers such as sweating and numbness on the hands and feet. But they repeatedly tested negative to HIV and medical checks didn't find any physical changes that would indicate disease. Nanfang Daily interviewed many experts and reported yesterday that they had differing opinions of the phenomenon. Shi Daiqiang, a member of Zhejiang AIDS expert team, said doctors couldn't rule out an unknown virus. But most experts, however, believe the problem to be AIDS phobia as while patients report symptoms, clinical tests can't find anything wrong. According to Nanf! ang Dail y, the Ministry of Health has required Beijing, Shanghai, Zhejiang, Jiangsu, Hunan and Guangdong to launch a study of the problem. A total of 59 blood samples of patients from the disease control and prevention centers in the six regions have been sent to laboratories in the United States for testing. "We tested seven to eight samples in Guangdong and it wasn't HIV/AIDS," Lin Peng, director of AIDS Prevention and Control Institute under Guangdong Province Disease Control and Prevention Center told Nanfang Daily. He said the national government would be announcing the test results soon.

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