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Gov't-backed Gay Forum Makes Cautious Debut
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Beijing's first government-backed Internet forum for homosexuals has slowly begun to take off despite initial reluctance by authorities to give it too much publicity. 

Fu Qingyuan, an official with the Center for Disease Prevention and Control of Chaoyang District, said the center created the forum two months ago but did not publicize it until Sunday because they didn't want to cause unnecessary public debate.

The forum was created to promote HIV/AIDS prevention awareness among China's homosexuals and offer professional assistance to the group, Fu said.

It has two chatrooms: one for same-sex lovers to share their emotions and experiences and the other for health advisors to offer counseling and advice on HIV/AIDS.

However, Fu admitted the forum had failed to attract postings on the notice board of, the center's official website to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS prevention, due to lack of publicity.

Fu said the center was considering launching a moderate media campaign to publicize the forum.

"We'll remain cautious because this is the first government-backed forum in Beijing to openly discuss same-sex love and it's a highly sensitive issue in China," Fu said.

After a report in yesterday's Beijing Times newspaper the number of postings began to soar.

"I'm so exited to find this website today through media reports," wrote an Internet user who gave his or her name as "Sina Chen." "I hope the government will pay more attention to same-sex lovers who are living at the edge of society."

Another Internet user named "Call for Love" said on the forum: "We're as good, faithful, law-abiding and love our parents as much as anyone else. Please do not discriminate against us or treat us only as AIDS patients."

Alongside the forum the website also publishes domestic and international developments on AIDS diagnosis and treatment.

"Homosexuality is an inevitable social issue we have to face," said Shi Wei, director of the center.

"Homosexuals are more vulnerable to AIDS and other venereal diseases and therefore need extra care and help," Shi said.

(China Daily August 15, 2006)

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