September 13, 2011
NGOs working to fight HIV/AIDS in China are making headway, but a gap exists for those targeting a key high-risk group -- men who have sex with men. MSM accounted for around one in three new HIV cases reported in China last year, Ministry of Health data show. Almost 5 percent of all MSM are HIV-infected, said Hao Yang, deputy director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention under the health ministry. But to date, no NGO that specifically addresses homosexual rights has registered with civil affairs authorities.
"The MSM group remains hidden from the public eye for fear of social bias, and the government alone cannot control the spread of HIV among this group," said Zhang Mingliang, a volunteer for Black Square Community, an HIV/AIDS NGO working in Heilongjiang province in northeast China.
"If society could be more tolerant of gay people, the work of AIDS control could be easier," said Ma Tiecheng of Love Aid, an NGO committed to HIV/AIDS prevention among MSM. Love Aid tests more than 200 MSM annually in Shenyang, where the HIV prevalence rate among MSM increased to more than 10 percent in 2010, up from 5 percent in 2005 and less than 1 percent in 2003.
Guo Xiaofei, a professor at the China University of Political Science and Law, said the government's HIV/AIDS efforts would be better served by mobilizing gay rights groups. "To reduce AIDS infections, the government should allow more AIDS prevention NGOs to register and let them participate in more campaigns to check the spread of AIDS," he said.