Migrants offered free condoms

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The city has set up more than 3,600 outlets over the past two years to distribute free condoms in areas with a high concentration of migrant workers in a bid to promote safe sex among the city's 6 million transient population, local authorities said on Friday.

Condoms and other contraceptives were previously only dispensed for free to locals holding a hukou, or a permanent residency permit, through outlets in residential communities and hospitals. Migrant workers had to pay for them either at stores or from condom vending machines installed on the city's streets.

Over the past two years, city officials have sought to make them more available in migrant communities in an effort to combat HIV/AIDS, as well as to respond to the call for migrant workers to receive equal treatment, according to Tang Qi, deputy director of Shanghai's condom distribution center, which also dispenses contraceptive pills.

The latest figures from the municipal health authority show that there were 886 new HIV carriers in Shanghai from Jan 1 to Nov 20, 2009, a 26.5 percent rise over the same period the previous year.

To cater to the migrant population, the city has set up 3,638 outlets for the free distribution of condoms in areas like construction sites and railway stations, as well as in communities and at companies with a high proportion of migrant workers, Tang said.

Other established outlets outside those areas, which are estimated to number 20,000, may also be used by migrant workers, he said.

"As a result of the campaign, the number of free contraceptives used by migrant workers has surpassed that of locals," he said, adding that Shanghai's move is part of a wider, national effort to promote safe sex among migrant workers and offer them the same contraceptive service that is available to locals.

Word of the campaign has yet to spread, as several migrant workers interviewed by China Daily in Shanghai on Friday said they knew nothing about it.

Zhu Aiqin, 27, from Anhui province, who works at a local restaurant, said she would not use free condoms, since she could not be sure of their quality.

Xing Dongwei, a 23-year-old security guard from Anhui province, said he would rather purchase them from stores for convenience and to protect his privacy.

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