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China opens first
gay men's health clinic

China opens first
gay men's health clinic

Amid an escalating HIV/AIDS crisis, the Chinese government has opened a health clinic for gays--the first of its kind in the communist country.

The move follows the Beijing government's decision last week to provide financial support for Hong Kong's gay and lesbian film festival.

China, which has a reputation of ignoring the needs of its gay and lesbian citizens, will allow the clinic to have a one-year testing period, at which point the effectiveness of the clinic will be evaluated.

The clinic will provide free HIV tests and treatments for other STIs, according to the Xinhua news agency. It will be managed and run by the Disease Prevention and Control center and an HIV/AIDS volunteer group in Chaoyang district.

"It's good news that China is now beginning to take the needs of gay men seriously in the fight against HIV," said Will Nutland, head of health promotion at the United Kingdom's Terrence Higgins Trust.

"We know that targeting clinics and other services for communities most at risk is the best way to tackle the disease and hope China will continue to improve their sexual health services in this way," Nutland said.

Although China has spent more than $37 million on AIDS treatment in the past three years, international HIV/AIDS organizations have put pressure on China to do more in HIVAIDS education.

The joint U.N. Program on HIV/AIDS, or UNAIDS, warned that up to 10 million people in China could be infected by 2010 without more aggressive prevention measures.

In June, China tried to shut down a Web site that provided news and information to China's gay and lesbian community, claiming its contents were too explicit.

However, just last week Hong Kong's gay film festival received backing from the Beijing government for the first time as part of a push to raise awareness of AIDS in the territory.

The Health Department's Red Ribbon Center has provided $8,000 in sponsorship to the Gay and Lesbian Film and Video Festival, which is to be held over two weeks beginning November 2. (Hassan Mirza, U.K.)

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