Howard Brown launches HIV testing program in China
Chicago's Howard Brown Health Center, which provides health care services to members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered community as well as HIV-positive people, announced that it has launched a program called the "China Project" that will provide rapid HIV antibody testing to at-risk adults in China. Three Howard Brown staff members, including executive director Keith Waterbrook, recently spent two weeks in China implementing the initial hands-on phase of the five-year program. A fourth Howard Brown representative remained for an additional two weeks to oversee Chinese health care outreach workers as they continue implementation of this groundbreaking effort. The project will include a special focus on gay men and female sex workers, two groups seriously threatened by HIV but largely shunned by the Chinese government. Outreach will be conducted in gay bars and brothels. "It's a very delicate situation to get involved with these at-risk populations in China," says Waterbrook, who has visited China more than 30 times. More than 1 million Chinese citizens are estimated to be infected with HIV, but the vast majority of at-risk individuals have never been tested for HIV antibodies. "They are where we were back in the early 1980s," says Scott Cook, director of community services at Howard Brown and one of the center's delegates to China. "The stigma around HIV is still very significant over there."