The provision of safe sex education for prostitutes by health
authorities in Harbin has come under attack with police and some
residents of the city arguing that such an initiative gives
legitimacy to the illegal trade.
The disease prevention and control center of Harbin, capital of
northeast China's Heilongjiang Province, held a lecture last
Wednesday on AIDS and safe sex for more than 50 women
involved in the city's sex trade, according to the Harbin
The two-hour class covered AIDS prevention, the importance
of using a condom and how to use one properly and, for the first
time, permitted the sex workers to discuss their occupation
Afterward staff distributed boxes of free condoms and gave out
the center's telephone number in case there were further questions
or problems in the future.
Some residents of the city questioned the scheme. "If you
provide a lecture to sex workers publicly, does that mean
prostitution has been recognized (as legal)?" the newspaper quoted
a woman surnamed Huang as saying.
"While public security authorities are making efforts to wipe
out prostitution, disease control authorities teach them (sex
workers) how to protect themselves when they are doing illegal
business," Huang said.
The center noted that prostitution did exist despite continued
police efforts to crack down on the sex trade, and distributing
information about diseases and prevention was a practical and
realistic approach to the issue.
Wen Yingchun, an official in charge of the center's AIDS
prevention and control division, said sex workers were among those
who are most vulnerable to the disease and other sexually
transmitted diseases. "If we neglect this group of people it's
irresponsible," Wen said.
The sex workers said they were strongly in favor of such
lectures. An unnamed prostitute said she hadn't realized how
significant a risk she was taking with AIDS and hadn't known how to
protect herself before the lecture.
An entertainment venue manager who took several sex workers to
the event said he would take part again as long as police aren't
Police, however, said the center's intentions were good but the
lectures could prove embarrassing to public security
(Xinhua News Agency October 16, 2006)