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HIV/AIDS fight hampered by taboo against gays
By Fu Jing (China Daily)
2007-10-18 07:08

A senior health official yesterday said HIV/AIDS prevention in the gay community was the latest hurdle for the government's drive to curb the deadly epidemic.

Wang Yu, chief of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said it was difficult to reach homosexuals because China's traditional values often forced them to hide their sexuality.

"They are one of the high-risk groups vulnerable to AIDS," Wang told China Daily from the sidelines of the Party congress. "Our prevention efforts among them have done nearly nothing to stem the rate of infection."

According to Wang, more than half the new HIV infections found in China during January-June this year were among homosexuals and prostitutes, which are identified as two high-risk groups in terms of HIV/AIDS prevention.

He did not reveal how many cases had been reported in the period, but he did say there are now about 60,000-70,000 HIV/AIDS fresh cases reported annually in China.

Currently, the number of registered AIDS patients stands at about 700,000.

"It's easier for us to spread safe sex knowledge among sex workers," said Wang. He said statistics have found that 100 percent of sex workers now know why and how to use condoms properly.

But HIV/AIDS prevention among homosexuals, who currently suffer nearly a quarter of new infections, remains a challenge, said Wang.

He said health and disease prevention authorities are still working on a package of measures to help the gay community.

"Currently we are training gay volunteers and sending them out to spread advice in the community," said Wang. "As this is the best way to spread our message in the secretive gay community."

He warned preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS among homosexuals was vital, as many members of the gay community had public families who may otherwise be exposed to the virus.

"It's very common for them to spread the epidemic to their families," he said.

Wang said China has basically brought HIV/AIDS under control, and now is a good time to focus on a prevention campaign.

But the United Nations and Asian Development Bank said in a report this month that the number of HIV infections in China is rising faster than the average figure for the Asia-Pacific region, despite the government's efforts.

Wang yesterday also warned that global warming might trigger the wider spread of deadly tropical diseases.

(China Daily 10/18/2007 page6)


  Hu Jintao -- General Secretary of CPC Central Committee
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