December 12, 2011
Non-governmental groups are becoming more influential in HIV prevention work among gays in China, experts say. China's first volunteer prevention group targeting LGBTs was set up in Beijing in 1997, but now such groups number more than 200, according to Zhang Beichuan, a prominent Chinese AIDS expert.
In China, AIDS-related stigma and discrimination act as barriers to testing, and getting tested at an official site requires a citizen's ID number. People feel more comfortable testing where private information is not recorded and those administering the test are friends, said Yuan Mu, who runs Landian, a volunteer group established in 2006 in Taiyuan, the capital of northern Shanxi province.
Since September 2010, Landian has provided free private HIV tests to more than 450 gay men and their families, Yuan said. Landian volunteers help people with HIV access other tests at disease control centers and, if needed, visit hospitals for medical treatment.
Volunteer groups serve as a bridge between health officials and the gay community, said Xue Zidong, an AIDS prevention official with Shangxi's center for disease control and prevention.
Last year, Landian helped establish volunteer groups offering HIV testing in five other cities in the province. The number of volunteers is growing with society's increasing tolerance towards gays, Yuan said. Landian operates with funds mainly from UK- and US-based AIDS foundations, and it is financially squeezed.
Authorities in China could bolster non-governmental prevention efforts by contracting with the groups for services and assisting with their applications for international funds, said Zhang. Promoting social acceptance would be one of the most cost-effective ways to further such work, he added.