Gov't-backed gay bar re-opens

0 CommentsPrint E-mail Xinhua, December 21, 2009
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The first government-backed gay bar in China has opened in a quiet way after being delayed for almost three weeks due to intense media attention.

Without ribbon cutting, a simple ceremony was nevertheless held to mark the opening of the bar Saturday night in the tourist city of Dali in southwestern Yunnan Province.

More than 60 people, mostly gay men, and 10 volunteers, also gays, attended the ceremony. Customers were given condoms free of charge.

"Their arrival gave me great support. Some of them came from outside Dali specially for the opening," Zhang Jianbo, the bar's owner, told Xinhua in a telephone interview Sunday.

The bar was originally scheduled to open on Dec. 1, the World AIDS Day. But Zhang delayed it to protect the privacy of the volunteers and customers after intensive media coverage.

"I have worried that the media reports may discourage them from entering the bar again. But such a thing did not happen," he said.

No media journalists were present at the opening ceremony Saturday night, he said.

Zhang, 36, is also director of the Dermatological Department of the Dali Municipal No. 2 People's Hospital and founder of the Dali HIV/AIDS Prevention and Health Association, a non-governmental organization.

"Starting from Dec. 20, the bar will open nine hours every day, from 3 p.m. to 12 p.m.," he said.

The minimum charge at the bar is a bottle of Coca Cola at five yuan (74 U.S. cents), and tea and some snacks are free, he said.

"The charges are just for the need of bar operation, and we are not aiming for profits. Customers need not worry about that," he added.

More understanding, tolerance

Zhang and his colleagues hope that the bar can provide a platform to educate gay men about AIDS, as a report released last month by UNAIDS (Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS) and China's Ministry of Health alerted the nation to the spread of HIV/AIDS among gay men.

Health Minister Chen Zhu said sexual transmission has become the major cause of infection, accounting for more than 70 percent of all newly detected HIV/AIDS cases, and sexual transmission among gay men accounted for 32 percent.

The ministry and the UNAIDS estimate that China will have 560,000 to 920,000 living HIV carriers, with 97,000 to 112,000 AIDS patients by the end of 2009.

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