To Stop Spread Of HIV, Prevention Campaigns In China Targeting Sex Workers, MSM

CNN examines China’s efforts to curb the spread of HIV/AIDS by educating sex workers about the disease and prevention strategies. “It is estimated that some 700,000 people are living with HIV in China and there are about 50,000 new infections every year, according to the Chinese government and UNAIDS. The U.N. agency believes a significant number of those new infections include sex workers,” CNN writes.

“I think sex work is probably one of the most important factors for the potential of HIV spreading in Asia and also in China,” Bernhard Schwartlander, UNAIDS coordinator in China, said. He added that sex workers, reflective of the Chinese population as a whole, have a poor understanding of HIV/AIDS. “There are misconceptions. People think that they can avoid HIV infections by taking a pill. People think that they are not at risk for HIV infections because they don’t know anybody (who has it), because you can’t see it, you can’t touch it. And clearly, this is something that we have to change very rapidly,” Schwartlander said.

Though “[h]istorically, HIV and AIDS have been taboo topics in China” and “prevention in the gay community has also been difficult because of traditional stigmas,” the “Chinese government is now conducting educational campaigns to inform higher risk groups, including sex workers, about how to prevent the transmission of HIV,” CNN writes. The article points to the success of prevention campaigns that have targeted injection drug users in China. Still, CNN writes, “[a] majority of the infections are concentrated among drug users, men having sex with men [MSM], and sex workers and their clients, Schwartlander said” (Chang, CNN, 6/21).

HIV/AIDS cases among MSM have “risen fivefold in Shanghai, the largest metropolis in eastern China, over recent years,” according to Chinese health officials, Xinhua reports. The data, presented during a science forum Thursday, were obtained by the Shanghai Center for Disease Control and Prevention, who “began surveying gay males in 2005 to find out more about their sexual behavior and infection experience with HIV/AIDS and syphilis,” according to Xinhua. HIV/AIDS awareness campaigns will also attempt to reach MSMs and bisexuals (Xinhua, 6/19).

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