In the southern Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, health workers are turning to the area's history of musical folklore to spread AIDS prevention messages.
"We asked eight local singers to write and record songs about the disease," said Huang Zhanghui, who became head of Shantun village's AIDS prevention office two months ago. The traditional art form helps make the messages easier to understand and accept, Huang said.
Guangxi is second only to Henan province in terms of its number of HIV infections, more than 76 percent of which are sexually transmitted, said Ge Xianmin, a Guangxi government AIDS prevention official.
In addition to folk songs, Huang's office uses text messaging and public film screenings to build AIDS awareness.
"We have been making progress with our anti-AIDS campaign," said Huang. "Nearly all of our villagers know how AIDS is transmitted and how to prevent it."
"I used to blush at the simple mention of sexual topics," said Lu Meirong, 33, who joined a local women's AIDS group in June. Now she counsels family and relatives to avoid sex workers and use condoms, a view she urges other women in the village to adopt. "I tell them to remind their migrant relatives to be tested for HIV after returning home," she said.
Peer education is critically needed in rural communities, said Wei Kaizhong, who leads the health bureau for Hechi, the administrative city of Bama County. In agreement, Ge said, "Rural residents are the weakest links in China's AIDS prevention efforts. Campaigns conducted by local residents are the most economical and effective way to stop the spread of AIDS."