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AIDS Awareness Hits Streets, Campuses

According to Beijing's Municipal Bureau of Health, the number of people with HIV in the capital has increased at an annual rate of 40 percent since 1998.

Most people with AIDS are aged 20-40, Guan Baoying, an official with the bureau, said when quoted by the Beijing Evening News.

To try to prevent the situation worsening, local authorities are using 40 billboards in the Sanlitun area of Beijing, where many bars are located, to publicize HIV/AIDS awareness messages.

This is the first time such advertisements have been posted in prosperous downtown areas, sources said.

Bars in Sanlitun attract around 1,000 customers each day with patronage reaching about 4,000 over weekends, most of whom are young people, sources said.

Meanwhile, the Haidian District Bureau of Health distributed free condoms to students at seven Beijing universities along with information materials.

Students welcomed the free condoms at the Central University of Finance and Economics, but two top universities -- Peking University and Tsinghua University -- have stopped distribution to their students.

Some experts say the universities are afraid of accusations of encouraging sexual relations among students.

Haidian District Disease Prevention and Control Centre sources said that university students are particularly at risk of being exposed to HIV, and that all known students with AIDS are thought to have been infected through sexual contact.

Zhu Jianfei, a Peking University student engaged in Red Cross work, said most students are aware of how to prevent contraction of the disease but some still fear those with HIV/AIDS.

Despite the urgent need to curb the spread of the virus, conservative attitudes about sex in China often keep pragmatic messages from being broadly publicized.

The UN has warned there could be 10 million HIV positive Chinese by 2010 unless urgent action is taken.

(China Daily November 25, 2004)

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