Beijing sets up condom selling machines
On the back wall of a small bar in a quiet street, in the big noisy malls of the city centre, it no longer surprises Beijingers to see them. The capital city is launching a large-scale campaign to set up more automatic condom selling machines in public places.
Earlier this month, a project aiming to promote the use of condoms began in the city. Three kinds of public places are seen as the key places to hand out condoms or put up automatic condom selling machines.
These places are the campus of the Beijing's colleges and universities; entertainment venues such as hotels, nightclubs, beauty salons and karaoke bars; and construction sites where migrant workers are often crowded.
The first batch of about 1,000 machines will be concentrated in Chaoyang, Haidian, Xicheng and Changping districts, where the above mentioned places are in abundance.
Users can get a condom by inserting a one yuan (12 US cents) coin into one of the machines.
Liu Ying from the Beijing Municipal Health Bureau hailed the project as a good way to raise people's awareness of safe sex and avoid the spread of venereal disease.
Condoms or contraceptive medicines are usually sold in special stores in Beijing.
People who need such items like newly married couples often find it hard to find them when they are needed.
"The project will make condoms more available to those who need them," said Liu, "if they need one, they can have one."
The machines will be of different colours in different places, for example iron grey for hotels and restaurants and yellow for bars and campus.
This is for the different kinds of people who usually frequent these places, according to sources with the machines' manufacturer.
Also, Beijing is continuing with a pilot project to provide free condoms and contraceptive medicines exclusively for married women.
It is said that another 300 machines will be in place by the end of this year, adding to the 100 which were installed in January.
Users can get free condoms from these machines with a special IC card, which is available from the Beijing Municipal Commission of Population and Family Planning.
Statistics show that about 60,000 women have benefited from the project.
To protect the privacy of the users, guard devices on the 300 as well as the original 100 machines will be removed after complaints about the noise made when people removed condoms from the devices,according to Cen Yang from the commission.
Promoting the use of condoms proves to be the most effective way to curb the spread of AIDS, said Wu Hao, a member of the Venereal Disease and AIDS Prevention and Treatment Association.
"Setting up automatic condom selling machines in China's big cities should have been done much earlier," he said.
Reports from the health bureau showed that by the end of last year, Beijing had diagnosed 1,648 AIDS cases. Data for this year has not yet been released.