Thanks to a young peer educators campaign, many young people in Beijing have learned how to protect themselves from HIV, drug addiction and unwanted pregnancies.
Sponsored by the All-China Youth Federation and the United Nations Economics and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP), the three-year peer educators project has trained more than 1,800 young migrant workers on the issues of sexual and reproductive health and HIV/AIDS prevention.
"No longer simply a health problem, the HIV/AIDS pandemic is becoming a development disaster, especially serious among young people," said Ren Wei, a program director of the project and a professor with China Youth University for Political Science in Beijing.
Ren said the project's mission is to disseminate accurate information about methods of HIV transmission, safe practices and counseling services through informal education and networking in order to reach students, young migrant workers, institutions and communities.
The peer educators use such methods as group discussion, group study, street surveys and life skill training to convey their message
Since the main modes of HIV transmission in Asia-Pacific are through heterosexual sex and injectable drug use, young people are at the center of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. UNESCAP reports that more than 50 percent of all new infections occur among people below 24 years of age.
Labor migration is one of the types of mobility that promotes HIV transmission in the region, according to UNESCAP, making education of China's millions of migrant workers an essential task.
HIV/AIDS knowledge among the general public remains low regardless of government efforts to promote and disseminate information. A recent survey revealed that while 93 percent of Chinese have heard of AIDS, only 8.7 percent have adequate knowledge of its transmission and prevention.
The first HIV/AIDS case in China was reported in 1985. There are now at least 840,000 HIV-positive people in the country, more than 65 percent of whom are aged between 16 and 29.
If effective and sustained prevention measures are not implemented, China could have up to 15 million HIV/AIDS cases in six years.
(China.org.cn, China Daily September 24, 2004)