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China: AIDS Rampant Among Beijing Gays

September 9, 2008

The results of a survey of 1 million blood samples collected in Beijing between January and July this year revealed a high HIV infection rate among men who have sex with men (MSM) in the capital city.

He Xiong, deputy director of the Beijing Center of Disease Control and Prevention, said that up to 5 percent of MSM in Beijing are HIV-positive, compared to 0.5 percent of female sex workers.

Several reasons were suggested for the high rate among MSM. Some MSM lack knowledge of HIV/AIDS, said He, and MSM reported using condoms in fewer than half of sex acts. And while gays have become more accepted in society in recent years, many still fear discrimination and so keep their sexual orientation secret. This makes MSM a particularly hard-to-reach target for HIV prevention efforts.

There are signs, however, that some other aspects of Beijing's HIV prevention campaign are working. The percentage of infections due to mother-to-baby transmission and infection via blood products, as well as HIV cases due to needle sharing by injection drug users, had all declined.

While about 214,000 people in China are registered HIV patients, a 2005 survey by the Ministry of Health, UNAIDS, and the World Health Organization estimated the actual number of patients at 650,000.

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