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Free AIDS tests offered to gay men
By Zheng Caixiong (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-05-18 06:15

GUANGZHOU: South China's Guangdong Province recently began providing free and confidential access to AIDS and HIV tests to gay men.

The move will last one month and is designed to be an annual event.

Between May 10 and June 10, local homosexuals including foreigners can provide blood samples in anonymity by mail to the AIDS Prevention and Treatment Institute of the Guangdong Provincial Centre for Disease Control for AIDS and HIV tests, an official from the centre said yesterday.

Meanwhile, gay men who arrive at the centre can speak face-to-face to doctors there.

Confidentiality is a priority, with examination results not to be leaked, said Jin Jianxing, a centre official.

In addition to mail-based services, examinees can receive test results via the Internet if they do not wish to travel to the centre, Jin said.

The move is aimed at helping the province study and research the spread of AIDS and HIV among the province's gay population and to tackle the spread of the fatal disease in Guangdong, which borders Hong Kong and Macao special administrative regions.

The number of gay men makes up between 2 per cent and 4 per cent of Guangdong's total population, Jin said.

And the odds of gay men passing on HIV and AIDS are usually five times greater than lesbians.

Shenzhen Special Economic Zone alone is now estimated to have more than 100,000 homosexuals living within the area.

Meanwhile, the centre also offers free examinations for hepatitis, syphilis and other infectious diseases for gay men during the one-month period, Jin told China Daily yesterday.

To help fight AIDS and HIV in Guangdong, where AIDS has quickly spread in recent years, authorities are planning to establish a special anti-AIDS working committee to focus on preventing and tackling the illness.

The committee will consist of senior doctors and other experts who will try to establish files for all AIDS patients and HIV carriers in the province.

It is expected to be officially established before the end of the year and will seek out international co-operation and overseas financial support over the next few years.

And Guangdong provincial government will surely expand the government's investment in combating HIV and AIDS, while importing advanced equipment and technologies to help test and treat patients.

An official from Guangdong Provincial Bureau of Public Health has promised to further improve his province's testing and treatment standards.

Guangdong's total number of AIDS patients officially numbered 5,051 at the end of last year.

But the official predicted that the prosperous province likely had as many as 30,000 underground AIDS patients and HIV carriers.

Last year alone, a total of 191 people were dignosed as having contracted AIDS in Guangdong.

With Guangdong's opening up drive advancing, the province's number of AIDS patients and HIV carriers will continue to grow in the future, doctors predict, becoming a serious health threat to the province.

Guangdong now has the fourth greatest number of AIDS patients and HIV carriers in China.

Yunnan Province in Southwest China is the worst HIV/AIDS hit region. It is followed by the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region and Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.

(China Daily 05/18/2005 page5)

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