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National Efforts to Prevent HIV/AIDS Among Gays

Authorities are working on China's first national program to curb the spread of HIV/AIDS among gay men, the Ministry of Health said in its 2008 work agenda released on Wednesday.

The program aims to strengthen measures to prevent and control the deadly disease among the homosexual community, Wang Weizhen, deputy director of the HIV/AIDS prevention department under the ministry's disease control bureau, told China Daily.

"By learning more about gay people, we can better protect them against this incurable disease," Wang said.

"Studies are under way in several cities to collect information on gay men, such as their distribution and behavioral patterns," Wang said.

Other measures, including special funding, technical support and information sharing, are also included in the program, she said.

China has between five million and 10 million gay men, who are in the highest risk group of contracting HIV and AIDS, Wu Zunyou, director of the National Center for AIDS/STD Control and Prevention, said.

And the number of new infections among this group is rising drastically, he said.

According to figures from the Ministry of Health, of the 700,000 Chinese living with HIV/AIDS, 11 percent of them contracted the virus through gay sex.

And the situation is getting worse, Wu said.

In 2005, homosexual sex accounted for just 0.4 percent of all new infections reported. Last year, the figure had risen to 3.3 percent, he said.

Despite existing regulations and measures to curb the spread of the disease, new programs targeting special groups, such as gay men, should be developed, he said.

"This is good news for China's gay community," Xiao Dong, who heads a Beijing-based information support group, told China Daily.

"The government is beginning to take this long-neglected segment of society into consideration in a bid to combat this deadly disease," he said.

(China Daily February 21, 2008)

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