Voluntary HIV testing for gay students

By Shan Juan (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-09-20 07:26

Gay college students in Beijing are being offered 50 yuan ($6.50) cash bonuses and free medical treatments in exchange for undergoing voluntary counseling and testing (VCT) for HIV, according to a report by the Beijing Times on Wednesday.

So far, more than 100 homosexual university students have registered for the VCT at www.hivolunt.net. The students are enrolled at several Beijing universities, including Peking University, Tsinghua University and Renmin University of China, project coordinator Xiao Dong told China Daily.

The project was officially launched on Tuesday at a private hospital specialized in treating sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). The goal is to raise awareness of such diseases among homosexual students and to obtain more firsthand information about on-campus gay culture.

It is also part of a nationwide effort to create connections between grassroot organizations for homosexuals and hospitals, said Xiao, who also leads a group called Rainbow.

With 100,000 yuan in funds from Rainbow and the National Center for AIDS/STD Prevention and Control, which is affiliated to the China Center for Disease Control (CDC), the testing project plans to give free counseling and testing for HIV to about 600 people.

Participants will fill out questionnaires and have blood samples taken at the hospital from next Monday to Sunday. After that they will be taken to the Chaoyang district CDC for screening and checkups.

Participants will have to show student identification, though their personal information will kept confidential.

Free counseling and testing for HIV is available at 19 locations in Beijing.

The counseling and testing on offer in this project is only for sexually active gay students in Beijing.

Xiao said such students tend to be unfamiliar with safe sex and HIV/AIDS prevention.

"Having a face-to-face talk with our gay consultants should make the students comfortable with their sexual orientation," Xiao said.

Experts have warned that university students do not have enough access to sex education and HIV prevention information, which has exposed many to STDs.

One-night stands and the practice of taking multiple partners are not uncommon among homosexuals, according to official data.

CDC figures show that men who have sex with men are the most susceptible to HIV/AIDS after drug users.

China has 650,000 people living with HIV and 10 million homosexuals.

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