Widespread ignorance about HIV among gay men in China is undermining the country's efforts to fight the spread of the disease, the official Xinhua News Agency said Wednesday. About 80% of gay Chinese men believe they can't get AIDS or seriously underestimate the risk of infection, Xinhua said, citing a study by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention. While drug users' shared needles are still the primary route of HIV transmission in the country, infection rates among the gay community--now about 1.35%--are expected to skyrocket, the report said.
Ignorance about AIDS, unprotected sex, and multiple sex partners were among factors cited by the survey as contributing to the expected rise in infection rates among gay men. Survey respondents were interviewed in bars, parks, public bathrooms, cyber cafes, and other places, according to Xinhua. It didn't say how many people were interviewed or when the study took place. More than 17% of those surveyed said they also had female sexual partners, and more than 12% said they were married, Wu said. Only 16% of those surveyed said they'd talked to their doctors about AIDS, the report said.
After denying for years that AIDS was a problem, Chinese health officials have over the past 18 months launched a flurry of public education campaigns and other initiatives, such as promises of free testing and treatment for the poor. Yet China's estimated 5 to 10 million sexually active gay men have been almost entirely disregarded by the government's efforts. "Gays have been completely ignored. There are no legal protections or even definitions for them," Wan Yanhai, an independent AIDS activist in Beijing, said in an interview. "They've been left out of the list of marginalized groups targeted for help." (AP)