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Guangzhou: Hotline Reaches Out to Gays
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Many homosexuals and their family members show signs of having serious psychological problems and deserve more attention from society, according to staff members at a Guangzhou-based free hotline for homosexuals.

Since its launch a year ago, the hotline has received calls from 2,336 homosexuals for consultations on psychological problems, legal issues and HIV/AIDS. The hotline is operated by the Chi Heng Foundation, a Hong Kong-based charitable organization.

"Consultations on psychological problems account for about 56 percent of all the calls in the past year. Twenty-six percent of the calls were about legal issues, and 15 percent were about HIV/AIDS," said a volunteer at the hotline who identified himself as Xiao Shen.

All of the roughly 20 volunteers who work for the hotline are gay. When they are not volunteering, they are doctors, teachers, actors, businessmen, students and government officials.

Among the most prevalent psychological problems afflicting homosexuals are inferiority complexes, marriage pressure, suicide-orientated depression and AIDS-phobia.

"Many of them call us repeatedly, asking everything they can think of about AIDS despite the fact that they have tested negative for HIV," said Xiao Shen.

"The psychological problems their family members suffer from deserve equal attention from society, if not more," he said. "More often than not, they have no access to professional advice."

"You can imagine how shocked they are when they learn that a member of their family is homosexual," he said.

By way of an example, he said he once received a call from the wife of a gay man. The woman said she was so desperate about the situation that she was thinking about killing her husband.

Wang Ye, a doctor with the Guangdong provincial disease control and prevention center's AIDS research institute, spoke highly of the hotline.

"The hotline not only helps ease some of the psychological pressure that many homosexuals face thereby nipping more tragedies in the bud but it also plays an important role in promoting anti-AIDS campaigns among homosexuals. It actually outperforms some governmental organizations in this regard," Wang said.

The doctor said his research institute also carried out anti-AIDS work with two other Guangzhou-based organizations exclusively for homosexuals a website and a club.

(China Daily May 9, 2007)

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