"It's difficult talking to sex workers and it's even tougher to
get them to sit down and listen to AIDS prevention training," Xu
Huifang, a health worker in Guangzhou, capital of south China's Guangdong Province, said with a wry smile.
Over the past eight months, Xu and her colleagues have been
visiting the city's entertainment venues, persuading sex workers to
use condoms to keep safe from HIV/AIDS.
"We were not welcomed in the beginning, but we tried hard to get
close to them and things got better," sai Xu, director of the
HIV/AIDS prevention section with the city's center for disease
control and prevention.
Xu is a member of a municipal task force, aimed at promoting
condom use among the city's sex workers. The task force now has
over 180 health workers.
Various ways have been tried to gain the trust of sex workers.
"We use their jargons in training to make the communication easier.
Sometimes we invited them for dinner," Xu said.
The health workers also sought support from managers or bosses
of the entertainment clubs, who helped persuade sex workers to
attend the training.
Health experts estimates that more than 40,000 people have been
infected with HIV in Guangdong.
So far, more than 30 free training sessions on HIV/AIDS
prevention have been held by Xu and her colleagues with
participation of more than 1,000 sex workers. The health workers
have also distributed more than 30,000 free condoms in the
According to estimates by the health ministry, World Health
Organization and UNAIDS, China has about 650,000 people living with
HIV/AIDS, including 75,000 who have developed AIDS.
Thirty seven percent of HIV infections were caused by illegal
drug users sharing contaminated needles and 28 percent caused by
Hao Yang, deputy director of the ministry's Bureau of Disease
Control, said transmission through unprotected sex is on rise, with
the infection rate of sex workers rising from 0.02 percent in 1996
to one percent in 2005.
Surveys show only 38.7 percent of sex workers use condoms. In an
attempt to stop HIV/AIDS spreading from high-risk people to the
general public through sexual contact, China is working with the
WHO to launch 100 percent Condom Use Programs in Hubei, Yunnan,
Hainan, Jiangsu and Gansu provinces and Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous
In Danzhou city of Hainan, the rate of condom use in commercial
sex activities rose by 33 percent and the incidence of sexually
transmitted diseases such as gonorrhea dropped significantly since
the project was introduced.
Dr. Wiwat Rojanapithayakorn, HIV/AIDS team leader in the WHO's
Beijing office, said providing condoms in entertainment places
could effectively curb the spread of HIV, and the practice should
Data from the health ministry showed that the number of
officially reported HIV/AIDS cases grew to 183,733 nationwide this
year, up nearly 30 percent from 144,089 at the end of last
As of October 31, 12,464 people had died in China as a result of
illnesses associated with the HIV virus, according to the
(Xinhua News Agency November 28, 2006)