Should we help them ward off STDs?
 Updated: 2004-06-07 08:52

Lectures on control and prevention of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases (STD) will be launched within the next two months, targeting those suspected of operating sex businesses in Shenzhen, a coastal city in South China's Guangdong Province.

The programme will employ 50 medical workers to communicate with practitioners in nightclubs, ballrooms, massage parlours, hair and food massage salons about STDs.

Hot discussion has been sparked on domestic media on whether or not the measure is necessary and will be effective.

Beijing News: In the fight against AIDS, China has progressed steadily, from setting up condom machines in communities swarming with high-risk people, providing drug addicts with free methadone and clean syringes to the current launch of the STD-preventing lectures.

In some foreign countries, the government regularly organizes medical workers to provide services to high-risk groups.

Also, in those countries with successful experiences in this field, different departments put stress on the fight against AIDS.

For example, the main job of law enforcers is to crack down on illegal sexual activities, while medical departments provide medical services to them.

Past experiences show clamp-downs are simply far from enough and should go side by side with providing medical services.

Such transition of mentality and strategy is a result of growing knowledge about prevention and control of AIDS and more rational scientific decision-making concerning public policies.

Like other fatal diseases, AIDS also needs prevention, control and treatment. Society should not discriminate against AIDS/HIV sufferers and refuse to help them.

Meanwhile, the government should crack down on illegal activities to maintain social order and values, but cannot neglect the demands of this special group.

It is a nation's responsibility to safeguard its citizens' health. And anyone found to be covering up public healthcare problems, should be considered as dereliction of duty.

Goals of both cracking down on illegal activities and providing services for STD sufferers are helping in the fight against AIDS. And Shenzhen's move shows the decision-makers' tolerant and rational attitude towards this issue.

Currently, China's AIDS patients and HIV carriers rank second in Asia and 14th worldwide.

The fight against AIDS has entered a crucial phase. China has prohibited paid blood collection to prevent infection when transfusing AIDS virus-contaminated blood.

The focus of the next stage should be to limit AIDS/HIV transmission from high-risk groups to the common people.

This requires the government to take a more active and practical attitude towards dealing with high-risk groups. Shenzhen's practice is a good start.

China Economic Times: Close attention should be paid to problems of the country's high-risk groups. Statistics show that the infection rate of STDs has been on the rise. Many experts have rung the alarm bell that it is urgent for China to take measures to prevent a large-scale outbreak of AIDS.

In this sense, Shenzhen's active move should be hailed.

However, the move might be superficial and fail to provide the ultimate solution.

Information about AIDS has been overwhelming in the media. People can get the information through various channels. High-risk women should not lack necessary knowledge about AIDS.

In addition, Shenzhen's move might also mislead the public to believe that the illegal activities might be gradually allowed by law.

In fact, high-risk groups pose a threat to social security beyond the simple medical problem. The problem is a social one. Medical solutions cannot serve as the basic measure.

One of the reasons for the growth of high-risk groups is the widening income gap between rich and poor.

Some people can't sustain themselves and turn to the sex trade to earn a living.

Meanwhile, local governments turn a blind eye to this industry, which is illegal in China, and have not taken strict measures to crack down.

Under this circumstance, high-risk groups' interests don't get proper protection.

That's why medical solutions alone will not play an effective role.

Dazhong Daily: Some people doubt Shenzhen's move, accusing it of making concessions to illegal sexual activities. They actually misunderstand the move.

In both China and other countries, there is a sex industry, which seems hard to avoid.

However, as the ultimate solution cannot be found in the near future, besides strengthened law enforcement, delivering lectures to high-risk people about the necessary knowledge is an active measure to avoid large-scale spread of STDs.

Similar arguments were being brandished when it came to drug addicts getting sterilized syringes and free methadone, a cheap drug substitute.

At last, this move got most people's support because it is a practical alternative, if not the ultimate solution to the problem.

Also, facing the growing threat of AIDS and other STDs, teaching women involved in illegal sex business will not only protect their health, but also protect the public from getting infected with STDs.

However, people should be aware that the move is not equal to encouraging illegal sexual activities. Clamp-downs should also been strengthened.

(China Daily)

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