A disease control office in Beijing has opened the city's first officially sanctioned online gay chat room, but most of the posts come from the Web site's managers, a newspaper reported on Monday. A link marked "comrade forum"--comrades being Chinese slang for "gay men"--on the Chaoyang District Disease Prevention and Control Center's Web site (www.cystd.com) provides open threads for people to discuss their feelings and seek counseling, the Beijing Times said.
Few people apart from the site's managers have left posts since the forum opened two months ago, in part due to people's concerns about restrictions, the paper quoted Fu Qingyuan, an employee from the disease control center, as saying. "Actually, such concerns are really unnecessary," Fu said, adding that apart from "people selling sex, obscene images, and other unsavory content," posts would be largely untouched.
Fu said health and disease prevention would be the main focus of the forum, an "obvious distinction" from other professional "comrade" Web sites set up by gay men. "The purpose of the site is to let all gay people express their true needs, to allow health workers to better communicate with them, and to prevent and control the possibility of AIDS risks developing," Fu said.
In China, homosexuality, while no longer officially considered a mental disorder, is still an off-limits subject for many. In a Beijing survey, only 15% of 482 men who had sex with men understood that they were at risk of contracting HIV, according to a 2005 report by the United Nations' UNAIDS.
China estimates it has 5 to 10 million gay men and about 80% have admitted knowing nothing about the spread of HIV/AIDS, state media have reported. China reported 75,000 new HIV infections last year and estimates it has 650,000 HIV/AIDS cases, but some experts say the number may be higher. (Reuters)