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High-risk group protected against HIV in Guangxi
Updated: 2004-12-01 14:17

High-risk group protected against HIV in Guangxi

People with high risk for contracting HIV -- drug abusers and sex workers primarily --are receiving special education and treatment in South China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.
Guangxi shares more than 1000 kilometers border with Vietnam. The autonomous region reported its first HIV-caused death case in 1996.
A local disease control official said that as the two nations' border trade has grown, the increasing population flow has added greater difficulties to AIDS prevention and control in the area.
To control the situation, the Chinese government is building an anti-HIV network in the zone, with the help from foreign nongovernmental organizations and local volunteers.
A huge sign saying "prevent and control AIDS with joint efforts " is now the most striking thing in the central square of the county of Ningming, located near the border.
In October 2002 the two nations jointly launched an AIDS prevention and control program in Ningming and Vietnam's Lang Son Province.
Since then, AIDS prevention and control has become one of the long-term and major tasks of the county government, said Meng Donghua, vice head of the county's epidemic prevention station.
The community health education center, attached to the station, hired 13 people with drug abuse records to popularize AIDS-related knowledge and collect used needles from the more than 500 drug addicts in Ningming's four townships.
"The center pays them 300 yuan (US$36) every month. Besides, they can get 0.1 yuan (one cent) for each reclaimed needle," said Meng. "Most of time they do the work voluntarily."
Twenty-six-year-old Liu Jun is very proud of his current work. Once one of the county's 1500 registered drug users, Liu is now an active participant of the peer education program.
Liu said he started taking drugs at 18 and quit several times.
He is responsible for exchanging clean needles for the used ones from the drug addicts and distributing them publicity pamphlets of AIDS prevention. Liu said he is happy with what he does now.
The Ningming Health Department said the county has distributed 270,000 needles since the program started and collected 250,000.
In the nearby city of Pingxiang, sex workers frequently receive sexual and AIDS education from the municipal epidemic prevention station.
Liang Fengqin, director of the station's health education institute, said it was difficult for them to spread HIV-related knowledge to sex workers with formal educational formats, because of their poor education backgrounds.
Instead, the four female workers from the institute choose to go to the city's 33 hotels and inns and more than ten public entertainment places, popularizing AIDS-related knowledge to the sex workers through free conversations.
"They are willing and happy to talk with us," Liang said. "They lack sexual and AIDS knowledge and we teach them a little."
She said sometimes they have to show the sex workers how to use condoms. They have been laughed at and despised in the past, she said.
"Anyway, as an efficient way of AIDS prevention, the use of condoms is now well accepted by all," Liang said.
In the Jinliancheng Hotel in Puzhai, the biggest Sino-Vitenamese frontier trade market, condoms are provided in every room.
Hotel manager Chen Liang said they started the service in March 2003, and have given out more than 10,000 free condoms.
"We thought this might bring about some negative influences to our business, but the majority of the guests show their understanding and acceptance of it," Chen said.
The joint efforts of local government and people are rewarded with a low HIV rate in the area. According to Pingxiang Municipal Health Administration, only one sex worker has been reported HIV- positive by the end of 2003.
Huang Xiufang, deputy mayor of Pinxiang, said the continuously hard work of all levels of HIV/AIDS control departments in Guangxi, in addition to the support and understanding of the public, protects high-risk people and effectively controls the spread of HIV.

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