Male homosexuals estimated up to 12.5m
More public attention is needed on the plight of homosexuals who face the threat of HIV/AIDS, experts say.
Male homosexuals, seen in public places, such as gay bars, parks, and public baths, account for 0.9 per cent of all grown men between 15 to 55, according to a survey.
The results were reported by Wu Yuhua, an expert from the Disease Control Centre of Northeast China's Heilongjiang Province.
He said the findings came from Harbin, the capital of the province, during April to August of this year.
"Many male homosexuals do not appear at public places at all, so we could only compute a percentage of the gay population," Wu told China Daily yesterday.
Nationwide, the number of male homosexuals is estimated to be about 5 million to 12.5 million, accounting for 2 to 4 per cent of the adult male population, said Zhang Baichuan, an expert on gay issues based in Qingdao, a coastal city in East China's Shandong Province.
But according to Wu's figures tabulated in Harbin, the number of gays in China may reach 2.25 million nationwide.
Meanwhile, Wu's survey at two public baths in Harbin shows that, among 148 male homosexuals, two men were confirmed as HIV positive as a result of urine tests.
If this figure was extended to the total population, the prevalence of HIV among gays would be 1.35 per cent, Wu said.
Wu's centre is the only surveillance site licensed by Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention that has investigated the numbers of the gay population and the spread of HIV among gays.
This is the first time for China's public health agencies to have organized such a survey and to release the results.
Wu's findings are also the main basis for a joint assessment of the HIV/AIDS epidemic among the male homosexual population.
An assessment of China's HIV/AIDS control and prevention says that more than 1 per cent of the male homosexuals in Beijing, Harbin, Guangzhou, Shenyang and other cities have been infected with the virus.
That assessment, issued by the Ministry of Health and the United Nations Theme Group on HIV/AIDS on Tuesday, says that many gays do not use condoms.
For example, in Xi'an, capital city of Shaan'xi Province, 38.5 per cent of surveyed gays have not used condoms in the past six months.
HIV-infected male homosexuals account for about 11.1 per cent of all the HIV positive cases in the country.
The number of female homosexuals, also called lesbians, is much less than that of males and they have a much lower danger of spreading HIV, experts noted.
Chinese public health workers should provide better healthcare services and other comprehensive support, such as psychological care, for homosexuals to prevent wider spread of the virus, said Wu Yuhua.
Now, hundreds of gays in China have become volunteers of protect the rights of homosexuals in health, marriage and other fields.
With the support of local medical organizations, these volunteers and public health workers have carried out many activities in recent years, said Zhang Baichuan.