'Mental HIV' Stumps Chinese
Sufferers claim government is concealing epidemic
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 10, 2010 1:39 AM CST
Updated Feb 10, 2010 1:43 AM CST
A man reads an AIDS prevention leaflets during an AIDS awareness promotion at a railway station in Beijing, China.    (Getty Images)

(Newser) – A surge in patients who have many of the symptoms of HIV but no trace of the virus is baffling health authorities in China. The condition is the result of a mental, not a physical, problem, doctors insist. But sufferers distrust China's medical authorities and believe the government is covering up an epidemic. Dozens of Internet chat rooms are filled with comments from people who believe they have the mystery illness.

Doctors complain that people with "HIV phobia" are using up scarce resources. "A real HIV sufferer may take 15 minutes to deal with," a senior Chinese HIV researcher tells the BBC. "A patient with the phobia can take as much as half a day of arguing before they go away." Some experts suspect the condition is caused by sufferers' extreme guilt or anxiety over having visited a prostitute.