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Sunday 21st July 2019

China to promote condoms

5th March 2012

An HIV/AIDS action plan released by the Chinese government includes a campaign to encourage widespread use of condoms, in a bid to cap the number of people living with the virus at 1.2 million by 2015.


There are currently around 780,000 Chinese living with HIV, according to official statistics, although the real figure may be higher.

The report, issued by China's cabinet, the State Council, said the country had made great strides in AIDS work in recent years, citing lengthening life expectancy for patients.

But it said Beijing still had a long, hard task ahead of it to prevent the continuing spread of the disease.

The State Council said in a statement that AIDS patients in China still faced "widespread discrimination," and that the virus was still a serious problem in some areas of the country, and among some, high-risk groups.

The government is focusing its prevention efforts on sexual transmission, although activists and AIDS doctors say that the virus is still spreading rapidly in poverty-stricken, rural areas, via the practice of blood selling.

The State Council announced plans to make condom machines available in 95% of hotels and other public places. The aim was to target "high-risk groups," who include men who have sex with men, intravenous drug users and others, according to Beijing.

"The present spread of AIDS is still severe," the statement said, adding that the government was aiming for 90% condom usage rate among such groups. But it did not give details of current condom usage.

The new action plan also includes measures to educate officials in local governments about AIDS, and guidelines for evaluating their performance in public health promotion work linked to AIDS.

Hundreds of thousands of impoverished farmers in rural areas of China became infected through botched blood-selling schemes, giving rise to whole villages of AIDS orphans. 

It was unclear whether they would be targeted by the condom campaign, too.

Dissident AIDS doctor Gao Yaojie says the problem of AIDS transmission via blood donor clinics is a public health scandal on a much bigger scale than the government is admitting. Gao and fellow activist Wan Yanhai have both now fled to the United States to escape official harassment because of their whistleblowing work.

In recent years, Beijing has boosted access to anti-retroviral drug treatments and increased spending on prevention programmes, as well as bolstered attempts to curb public discrimination. China's leaders can now be seen visiting AIDS patients and shaking hands with them, sending a public message that would have been unthinkable just 10 years ago.

In 2009, China reported that AIDS had become the country’s leading cause of death among infectious diseases for the first time, killing more people than tuberculosis and rabies.


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