Health experts and family planning workers are calling on Chinese men to take more responsibility for family planning to show they care for their beloved and to guarantee their equal rights to information and access to services.
Doing so will help reduce unwanted pregnancy and prevent reproductive tract infections and other sexually transmitted infections, including HIV/AIDS, family planners said.
Women now assume most responsibilities for family planning, but while female contraceptives, such as the pill, block pregnancy, they do not prevent sexually transmitted diseases, said Liu Xiaozhang, a researcher with the Sichuan Reproductive Health Institute.
State Family Planning Commission data show that among couples using family planning measures, 46.3 percent take intra-uterine devices and 37.6 percent have chosen female sterilization. Only 2.1 percent use condoms on the national average. The rest use other types of methods.
A survey among 5,000 people in Northeast China's Jilin Province showed that 21.2 percent of those surveyed are using condoms to prevent unwanted pregnancy while a whopping 77.8 percent refused to use condoms, saying it is inconvenient or makes sex less enjoyable.
The majority of both men and women surveyed said it was better to use female contraceptives.
The survey has also found that 83 percent of participants hope to learn more about reproductive health and the prevention of sexually transmitted infections.
The promotion of condom use and dissemination of male sexual health knowledge are two of the major components of the "men involvement" programme.
In addition to encouraging men to share the responsibilities in family planning and the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases, men are being urged to educate children about safe sex and avoid resorting to domestic violence, programme managers said.
Condoms are distributed for free or sold in vending machines to target populations and special consulting centres.
Hotlines also have been established for people to discuss any problems.
The intervention has yielded positive results.
In Jilin Province, for example, condom use among the target population increased by 45.8 percent. And the number of female reproductive tract infections decreased by 26.3 percent.
The State Family Planning Commission said it is encouraged by the results from the pilot work and will expand to more areas.
The central government is aware of the importance of male participation in family planning, and the concept has been widely accepted by local people in the pilot areas, said Zhao Baige, director-general in charge of international co-operation affairs with the State Family Planning Commission.
She said she hoped that the international community will continue to support the programme in China.
(China Daily March 18, 2002)