Drug-resistant strains of HIV are spreading among China’s general population, Reuters reports.

The country has access to only seven out of the more than 20 various HIV drugs available. As a result, health officials warn, HIV-positive people may have limited options once they develop resistance to certain drugs.

“We have to find a way to stop this, or the change will be like South Africa. If there is no good prevention, transmissions will suddenly explode,” said Chen Zhiwei, director of the AIDS Institute in Hong Kong, who believes that China’s female sex workers may be partly responsible for the spread of one particular drug-resistant strain.

As of October 2007, there were about 700,000 HIV/AIDS cases in China, with 38 percent of them attributed to heterosexual contact. In 2005, the majority of infections occurred among injection drug users and through blood transfusions.