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Study: HIV ignorance hurts Chinese gays
Updated: 2004-12-15 16:07

Chinese health officials are warning that if China's gay community does not get more education about the risks of HIV/AIDS, the country could face a hard time.

Chinese health officials are warning that if China's gay community does not get more education about the risks of HIV/AIDS, the country could face an explosion of the deadly virus.

More than 80 percent of China's estimated five to 10 million gay men erroneously believe they are safe from HIV/AIDS, according to China's first survey on the habits of its gay community.

Lu Fan, chief of the center for AIDS control and prevention, told Xinhua, the official Chinese news organization, that among sexually active Chinese men, about 2 to 4 percent are gay, and as many as 1.35 percent of those are infected with AIDS.

But infection rates are expected to rise rapidly because of limited knowledge about the disease and unprotected sex with multiple partners, said Lu.

According to the survey, about 50 percent of Chinese homosexuals have more than one partner, with some having had more than 100.

Most of the scant information that gay men get about HIV/AIDS comes from TV, radio, newspapers and magazines. Only 16.6 percent of those surveyed said they talked about the virus with their doctors.

"The gay community is one of the most vulnerable groups, but they have long been ignored in China," said Lu.

Health officials are also worried that some of the men who have sex with men also have female partners. Men in heterosexual marriages accounted for 12.6 percent of the men having sex with men in the survey, while 17.4 percent of those surveyed admitted to also having sex with women.

The survey was conducted in Harbin, the capital of Heilongjiang. Because gay men in China are largely closeted, information was collected at bars, parks, public bathrooms and cyber cafes.

Health experts warn that the fear of prejudice could add to this potential health threat, and they are now urging health authorities and the general public to have a balanced attitude toward gay men in the hopes of preventing a catastrophe.

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