Visitors to Expo 2010 Shanghai on Tuesday applauded the proposed free distribution of condoms at Expo-designated hotels as the city battles against HIV/AIDS.
In a move to promote safe sex, the city's health authorities said on Monday that a total of 500,000 free condoms would be placed in guest rooms at Expo-designated hotels, while 300 condom vending machines would be installed in hotel lobbies and entrainment venues.
Health authorities were vague about how many hotels will participate in the program. Earlier this year, Expo organizers officially selected more than 150 hotels and service apartments in Shanghai to provide accommodation for visitors coming to the Expo as staff of participating countries, journalists, performers and volunteers.
The designated hotels range from the budget hotel chain Jinjiang Inn to more luxurious premises, including Pudong Shangri-La Hotel and JW Marriott Shanghai Tomorrow Square.
Visitors to the Expo on Tuesday said the move would strengthen the city's efforts to bring HIV/AIDS under control. The latest figures show that Shanghai reported 886 new HIV carriers from January to November 20, 2009, a 26.5 percent rise on the preceding year.
There is a high risk of contracting the HIV infection in Shanghai, despite a low rate of HIV/AIDs in a city of 17 million permanent residents, health experts warned.
"Encouraging people, especially the youths, to practice safe sex is a good starting point," said Yu Meiling, a doctor from nearby Anhui province who is visiting the Expo with her husband.
Zhu Quanlong, a housing agent in Shanghai, said the move reflects the government's intention of fulfilling its commitment to fight the disease, which is still viewed as a stigma by many people.
"The program should be extended to all hotels in the city to enhance people's awareness about the disease and safe sex," he said.
Li Hongbo, 26, from Dalian, Liaoning province, zeroed in on the scale of Expo 2010 as an exceptional opportunity to fight the HIV/AIDS epidemic by promoting knowledge about the disease.
Many hotels in the city gave a non-committal response to the proposal on Tuesday, as they waited for official notification from the authorities.
Wong Chinchu, communication manager with the Pudong Shangri-La Hotel, said the hotel respects the move, but will do its best to protect its guests' privacy.