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Project to Increase Condom Use Among Gays

In a bid to halt the rising number of people suffering from HIV/AIDS infections China is to launch a five-year scheme in 2007 to encourage the use of condoms among gays, said a senior official from the Chinese Disease Prevention and Control Center (CDC).


"Prevention efforts among gays are key to the country's control of AIDS,” said Wu Zunyou, director of the AIDS prevention bureau affiliated to the CDC. “They need collaboration between government departments and grassroots organizations.”


The target is to raise condom usage to 70 percent, said Wu. A survey of 526 gays in Beijing indicated only 20 percent used condoms all the time.


Gay sex contributed to 7.3 percent of reported HIV/AIDS cases nationwide, according to the CDC. The main causes were drug users sharing needles and unsafe sex.


In the first 10 months of the year 39,644 people were officially reported to have been infected with HIV, the Ministry of Health said last week. While a total of 183,733 people had been officially reported to have contracted HIV the ministry estimated the actual figure at the end of 2005 was around 650,000.


The ministry also estimates that at least 1 percent of the country's 5-10 million sexually-active gay people in the 18-49 age group have contracted HIV/AIDS.


Because of pressure within society many gays choose to marry women. "This has led to the risk of them spreading the disease to people around them," Wu said on Wednesday during an online interview on conducted in conjunction with today's World AIDS Day.


Also, the CDC and the AIDS Intervention Center in Beijing's Chaoyang District will jointly launch a project next year on prevention through peer education among gays. The project will be replicated in five cities every year.


It will record personal information such as age, profession, feelings, health, condom usage and reaction towards discrimination. Under the project free medical treatment will be provided to gays with sexually transmitted diseases or infected with HIV and help offered in finding jobs and fighting discrimination.


Starting this month the Chaoyang District intervention center will offer free medical checks regularly to gays in Beijing which is reportedly home to 300,000 gay people with 3 percent of them infected with HIV.


To promote safe sex one of the country's leading condom-makers has launched a custom-made condom for gays. Tao Ran, manager of Gobon Condom Factory in Guilin, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, said that the company would employ a special marketing strategy involving gay volunteers and online sales to promote the product.


In addition to these efforts some AIDS experts see a more tolerant society as a cornerstone for ensuring the mental and physical health of gays. According to Zhang Beichuan, a professor on AIDS studies at Qingdao University many free medical projects are shunned by gays because of social discrimination.


"If the governments are more tolerant towards them the projects will attract more gay people for medical treatment which in turn will benefit the whole society," said Zhang. He proposed that legal marriages be allowed among gays and a special law banning discrimination enacted.


A recent survey conducted by Zhang, covering 2,000 gays in nine cities, showed 60 percent of them suffer from the fact they are gays and 10 percent were so badly affected they wanted to take their own lives.


The reasons for contemplating suicide included broken relationships with gay partners, social discrimination and unhappy marriages to women.


(China Daily December 1, 2006)

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