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Online Sex Education Under Test in Shanghai
The Shanghai Family Planning Research Institute is currently testing the nation's first online sex education program to see if the Internet is a good tool for teaching local students a topic that is still taboo for many.

In March, the institute gave out passwords for the site to 600 students from one local university and two high schools in Zhabei District.

Students surfing the site have access to information on sexual health and reproduction and can discuss topics of interest on the site's bulletin board.

If response from the students is positive, the institute will open the site to students citywide by the end of this year.

To evaluate how effective the program is, the institute will test the 600 students along with 600 other their peers who are not accessible to the Website on their knowledge of sexual health topics later this year.

"In September, we will do a study on the two groups, comparing their understanding of sexual knowledge and attitudes toward sex, " said Lou Chaohua of the institute.

So far, the Website has received 3,000 visits and more than 300 students have expressed opinions.

"Many students talked about how to socialize with the opposite sex and expressed their need for more knowledge about sex," Lou said.

Until recently, sex was a taboo topic because of Chinese tradition but that is changing quickly.

A week ago, 10 condom vending machines were installed at six universities in the city's Yangpu District, including Fudan and Tongji, by the Yangpu District Population and Family Planning Committee.

"We have special staff to maintain the machines and restock the condoms. Both teachers and students are major consumers," said Shi Yafang, director of the Yangpu committee. "More and more people understand the importance of using condoms, which is the best contraceptive and the most effective way to prevent disease."

A spokesman for Fudan University said the school has received a positive response to the machines.

But Philip Sun, a graduate student at Shanghai University of Finance and Economics, doubts whether the machines will be popular. "Since sex is not an open topic amid students as it is in the West, I guess few schoolmates will want to use the machine on campus," he said.

Sun's mother questions the need for the machines. "They are unnecessary. Condoms can be bought at neighboring convenience stores. Why put the machine on campus," she asked.

(Eastday.com June 18, 2003)

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