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Experts: Spread use of condoms
By Zheng Yanyan (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-12-17 00:25

Chinese university students should learn more about condoms in helping prevent HIV/AIDS instead of blushing and refusing to talk about it, say experts, warning that the epidemic is still spreading.

This suggestion is put forward in Tsinghua University on Wednesday at a forum with experts warning that the deadly virus has started to spread from high-risk groups, such as drug users and prostitutes, to the general population.

Although nearly 1 million on-campus university students are not among the most affected, a lack of knowledge about the virus and condom use may be dangerous, experts said at the 2004 Red Ribbon Forum on AIDS and condoms held there.

University students, who are at an age of sexual activity, are a very vulnerable group, said Siri Tellier, representative of the United Nations Population Fund in China, at a forum held by the China Youth Development Foundation.

More than 50 per cent of the 840,000 HIV carriers in China are aged between 21 and 29, and most of them live in rural and remote areas.

At present, 43.9 per cent of HIV/AIDS carriers in China are drug addicts, 24.1 per cent were infected through blood donations and 11.1 per cent are homosexual males.

However, young people in urban areas and on campus are less safer now as infections caused by unprotected sex is quickly becoming the most prevalent infection channel.

Unsafe contact is the main reason for the spread of the virus from high-risk groups to the general public.

Many students still assume that the virus is far away from them and do not think it is necessary to use condoms, experts warned.

A survey of 300 students in South China's Guangdong Province showed only 40 per cent want to use condoms while acknowledging that sex is a popular activity.

Moreover, fear of HIV is the least prominent factor when considering whether to have sex.

More prevalent factors are pregnancy, punishment from university authorities and parental opposition.

Tao Ran, manager of the Guilin Latex Factory which is the largest condom exporter in China, said at the forum that promotion must be enhanced among young people to help them get rid of the embarrassment.

A programme to put condom machines on Chinese campuses was started several years ago, but several hurdles have hindered its development.

One factor is that many universities still worry that the promotion of condom use will push younger people towards sexual activity sooner and influence their studies and the normal atmosphere of their schools.

Another reason is that many students are still too shy to buy condoms from the vending machine.

For these two reasons, before this World AIDS Day on December 1, Peking University did not allow an organization to distribute condoms on campus.

"Perhaps condoms are available from automatic vending machines on the street, but I do not think many people would buy them there," a student with China University of Political Science and Law told China Daily.

Students prefer to buy condoms by themselves in drug stores secretly if they think they are necessary, the survey in Guangdong notes.

Young students need to understand that condoms are only tool for life device and an effective measure to prevent unexpected pregnancies and diseases, said Zhao Pengfei Zhao Pengfei, a World Health Organization (WHO) official.

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