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Beijing Opens Nation's 1st Free Clinic for Gays

Beijing's first clinic for gay people, also China's first to provide free services, opened Wednesday, providing checkups for all sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including AIDS, syphilis, gonorrhea and genital herpes.

Xiao Dong, head of the Chaoyang Chinese AIDS Volunteer Group, said free treatment would be given to STD carriers, and confirmed HIV carriers would be introduced to national free treatment programs.

People wanting checkups should log on to the group's website ( and fill in an application form before going to the clinic. More than 500 people signed up Wednesday.

"As China marches on, so do its medical services. We hope this program will underline the common medical rights enjoyed by gays," Xiao told China Daily on Nov. 8.

Patients will be treated anonymously, and their privacy will be respected, Xiao said. Moreover, they will be given a mobile phone card worth 50 yuan (US$6.25) as compensation for their transport costs.

The non-governmental organization will need more financial support as more people participate.

"Medical treatment costs will be much higher than the original budget can cope with, as most people signing up are disease carriers already. We were initially expecting the majority to simply want checkups," said Xiao.

The STD and AIDS Prevention Center, run by the China Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Chaoyang District Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provided the start-up funding.

The clinic, located in the Chaoyang CDC, will expand to three community hospitals, including the nearby Shibalidian Township Hospital, the Asian Games Village Hospital in the north and another new one to be built, to provide convenient and confidential services.

"We have talked to health administrative departments and the hospitals we have selected, and medical fees carried in those hospitals will be lowered after eliminating some unimportant medical procedures," said Xiao.

Shenzhen in South China's Guangdong Province and Nanjing in East China's Jiangsu Province set up homosexual clinics in February 2004, but neither provides free services as the Beijing one does.

In August, the Chaoyang CDC opened a gay forum on its website, the first of its kind with official support.

"The forum reflects the progressive posture taken by some officials," Xiao said.

Zhao Zheng, a volunteer at the clinic, said: "Things related to homosexuality are quite accepted among younger people in China. As our society becomes more mature, it is becoming more magnanimous."

China's free AIDS treatments cover 25,000 patients across the country.

The country has spent nearly 288 million yuan (US$36 million) on the sector in the past three years, accounting for 14.3 percent of the total anti-AIDS outlay, the Ministry of Health said.

The only official figure for male homosexuality was released in 2004, putting the total number of gay men at between 5 and 10 million.

But Xiao said the number may actually be between 10 and 50 million, though a number of homosexuals marry women and have children. The figure in Beijing is around 300,000, 2 percent of whom are HIV carriers, he said.

(China Daily November 9, 2006)

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