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Half of Prostitutes in Beijing Unaware of Condoms' Benefits

More than half of Beijing's prostitutes still reject the use of condoms despite the growing incidence of sexually-transmitted HIV and AIDS, says a report issued on Tuesday.

Sexual transmission, for the first time, has replaced intravenous drug using (IDU) as the most common transmission route in the Chinese capital, accounting for 54.6 percent of HIV infections, said Fang Laiying, the municipal Public Health Bureau director.

Only 46.5 percent of the city's 90,000 sex workers used condoms, said Fang, citing a medium-term assessment report on AIDS prevention and control.

The HIV infection rate among sex workers was unknown as Beijing had no testing program for them as yet.

Fang said free condoms were already provided at 22,000 Beijing venues, including hotels and vacation resorts. Almost 3,000 automatic condom-vending machines had been installed in entertainment venues.

Fang promised the machines would be installed by the end of the year at construction sites with more than 500 workers. Some sites already had machines, but he could not give the number.

Beijing had reported 5,635 HIV positive and AIDS cases by November 1, since the first case was reported in 1985. Of those 21 percent were Beijing residents, 75.1 percent were from other regions, and 3.9 percent were foreigners.

In September, the Ministry of Health announced that sexual transmission had overtaken intravenous drug use as the main cause of the spread of HIV/AIDS across China. A ministry report blamed the relatively low rate of condom use.

At the end of 2007, China had approximately 700,000 people living with HIV, including an estimated 85,000 who had developed AIDS, according to an UNAIDS report issued in September.

(Xinhua News Agency November 26, 2008)

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