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Chinese Government Opens Gay Bar

Dali

A Chinese city that has one of the nation's highest AIDS rates of has opened a government-funded gay bar in a controversial effort to spread HIV prevention messages.

The bar in Dali, a historic town in the Yunnan province, is funded by the local health department. Dali is one of the 10 Chinese cities most affected by AIDS.

Same-sex transmission accounts for about one third of new HIV infections in China, the minister of health said this month, according to Reuters.

"Some readers think that it's a waste of taxpayer money, or an indirect endorsement of homosexual behavior," the Beijing News said in an opinion piece on Monday. "They think if there were another way to reach out to the gay community, it wouldn't be necessary to open a bar."

Founder Zhang Jianbo said he hopes the bar will provide a place for gay men to gather, especially those from rural villages. A patch of woods near the city has historically been a gay cruising spot.

The bar offers sex education and free condoms as well as companionship, Zhang told the Beijing newspaper.

While the bar receives government funding, its staffers are volunteers from a local nongovernment organization involved in AIDS prevention.

"Each year, the Dali city government spends 20,000 yuan [$2,929] on treatment drugs for AIDS. So if our bar succeeds in reducing transmission, our 120,000 yuan will be well-spend," Jiang Anmin, the city's deputy director of health, told the Beijing News.

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