"It's difficult talking to sex workers and it's even
tougher to get them to sit down and listen to AIDS prevention
training," Xu Huifang, a health worker in Guangzhou, capital of
south China's Guangdong Province, said with a wry
Over the past eight months, Xu and her colleagues have
been visiting the city's entertainment venues, persuading sex
workers to use condoms to keep the safe from HIV/AIDS.
"We were not welcomed in the beginning, but we tried
hard to get close to them and things got better," sai Xu, director
of the HIV/AIDS prevention section with the city's center for
disease control and prevention.
Xu is a member of a municipal task force, aimed at
promoting condom use among the city's sex workers. The task force
now has over 180 health workers.
Various ways have been tried to gain the trust of sex
workers. "We use their jargons in training to make the
communication easier. Sometimes we invited them for dinner," Xu
The health workers also sought support from managers
or bosses of the entertainment clubs, who helped persuade sex
workers to attend the training.
Health experts estimate that more than 40,000 people
have been infected with HIV in Guangdong.
So far, more than 30 free training sessions on
HIV/AIDS prevention have been held by Xu and her colleagues with
participation of more than 1,000 sex workers. The health workers
have also distributed more than 30,000 free condoms in the
According to estimates by the health ministry, World
Health Organization and UNAIDS, China has about 650,000 people
living with HIV/AIDS, including 75,000 who have developed
Thirty seven percent of HIV infections were caused by
illegal drug users sharing contaminated needles and 28 percent
caused by unprotected sex.
Hao Yang, deputy director of the ministry's Bureau of
Disease Control, said transmission through unprotected sex is on
rise, with the infection rate of sex workers rising from 0.02
percent in1996 to one percent in 2005.
Surveys show only 38.7 percent of sex workers use
condoms. In an attempt to stop HIV/AIDS spreading from high-risk
people to the general public through sexual contact, China is
working with the WHO to launch 100 percent Condom Use Programs in
Hubei, Yunnan, Hainan, Jiangsu and Gansu provinces and Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.
In Danzhou city of Hainan, the rate of condom use in
commercial sex activities rose by 33 percent and the incidence of
sexually transmitted diseases such as gonorrhea dropped
significantly sincethe project was introduced.
Dr. Wiwat Rojanapithayakorn, HIV/AIDS team leader in
the WHO's Beijing office, said providing condoms in entertainment
places could effectively curb the spread of HIV, and the practice
should be promoted.
Data from the health ministry showed that the number
of officially reported HIV/AIDS cases grew to 183,733 nationwide
this year, up nearly 30 percent from 144,089 at the end of last
As of Oct. 31, 12,464 people had died in China as a
result of illnesses associated with the HIV virus, according to the
(Xinhua News Agency November 29, 2006)