A motorcade of more than 20 vehicles took to the highways of Beijing, Hebei and Shandong provinces at the weekend in an attempt to spread the word about safe sex and HIV/AIDS prevention among long-distance lorry drivers.
Organized by the China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation, volunteers distributed information leaflets, condoms and syringes at highway service zones and toll stations along the route.
Long-distance truck drivers are generally men in their prime who are sexually active while away from their spouses for extended periods, Hua Ke, the foundation's director, said.
"They are highly mobile and often use prostitutes and take drugs, which puts them at risk of contracting the deadly disease," he said.
"Worse still, due to poor education and limited access to information, these men know little about HIV/AIDS, let alone how to prevent it," Hua told China Daily.
"That's the reason we targeted them with this project."
Tang Wei, a vice-director of the project, said very few toilets along the highways had posters warning of the risks of HIV, and condoms were often unavailable at service areas.
"Starting from next week, all the toilets our motorcade visited will have posters reminding truck drivers of the dangers of HIV and how they can protect themselves from the disease," Tang said.
But the project won't stop there. Over the next five years it will be extended to include key highways across the country, he said.
Lorry drivers have been identified as being highly vulnerable to the disease, along with commercial sex workers, homosexual men and intravenous drug users, Hua said.
The Ministry of Health estimates there are 650,000 people with HIV/AIDS, although just 200,000 are registered.
(China Daily September 25, 2007)