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HIV Program to Enlist Help of Gay Community
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The country's first government-initiated program to eradicate HIV/AIDS among homosexual men will seek the help of its gay population.

The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said it is currently soliciting opinions about the project to be implemented by May.

A number of measures, including special funding, technical support and information sharing, are aimed at containing the spread of the virus, a growing threat among China's 20 million gays.

"It's cheering news for China's gay community, 47,000 of whom are HIV positive or AIDS patients," said Xiao Dong, who heads a Beijing-based information support group.

"The government is beginning to take the long-neglected segment of people into the general roadmap to combat the soaring pandemic," Xiao added.

Statistics from the CDC show that the virus has been spreading quickly among gay men and the number of patients has doubled since 2004.

More than half of all gay men are believed to have multiple sex partners and many also have female partners, which increases the spread of HIV.

To help reduce the spread, officials hope to increase the availability of condoms and lubricant for 70 percent of gay men.

Currently only 10-20 percent of them use condoms, according to national CDC figures.

"Not a single condom vending machine can be found in Dongdan Park, a well-known gay park in downtown Beijing, let alone small and secret gay bars and bathrooms," Xiao noted.

As a result, many gays engage in unprotected sex due to a shortage of condoms. At present, only one Guilin-based condom-maker produces condoms tailored for gays.

Another goal of the project is to build a national network to promote the sale and distribution of condoms and lubricants.

Gay volunteer organizations should help promote condom use and play a strong role in helping to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS, Xiao said.

Shanghai reported a record number of new HIV infections last year, according to the municipal public health administration.

There were 718 HIV infections last year, and 53 HIV patients developed AIDS. The number of infections represents a 54 percent increase over the previous year and a record.

(Shenzhen Daily April 16, 2007)

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