May 31, 2012
HIV transmission in China is increasing faster among men who have sex with men (MSM) than in any other population, a trend that "cannot continue," a group of researchers working in China write in a Nature commentary, adding, "Policymakers, public health researchers, clinicians, educators, community leaders and other stakeholders in China must come together to educate everyone, and gay men in particular, about HIV prevention and treatment -- before any more people become infected as a result of ignorance and fear." They continue, "Chinese people aren't uncomfortable just in discussing homosexuality" but "sex in general," which has resulted in "a pervasive stigma against people with HIV, a lack of general sex education for young people, and poor epidemiological data about the spread of HIV in some populations around the country," as well as "a hidden population of individuals who are afraid to seek out HIV information resources or testing and counseling centers."
Noting China has made "remarkable progress" at the political level over the past 10 years in "HIV research, prevention and treatment for homosexuals," "[e]fforts to combat the stigma, however, have been insufficient," they write. The authors call on policymakers to "make discrimination against HIV-positive individuals punishable by law" and pass legislation laying out "punishments for knowingly exposing another person to HIV, and requirements for HIV-infected patients to notify their physician and partners when they are diagnosed with HIV." They continue, "Second, health professionals, including researchers and medical workers, must cooperate across disciplines to" provide more and better HIV testing, prevention and treatment interventions. "Only through a large-scale, coordinated effort between policy, program, research and clinical sectors will new infections start to significantly decrease," they write, concluding, "The challenge is not insurmountable. But it does require concerted action -- now" (Shang et al., 5/31).
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