Sex worker education in China16th October 2006
Health authorities in the northeastern Chinese city of Harbin are under attack for providing safer sex lectures to prostitutes, with police and some residents of the city saying the programme gives legitimacy to an illegal profession.
The disease prevention and control centre of Harbin, capital of northeastern China's Heilongjiang Province, recently organized a lecture on AIDS and safe sex for more than 50 women involved in the city's sex trade, according to the Chinese-language Harbin Daily newspaper.
The two-hour lecture covered HIV/AIDS prevention, the importance of using a condom and how to use one properly, and for the first time allowed the sex workers to discuss their occupation openly.
After the activity, centre staff also distributed boxes of condoms to the attendees for free, and gave them the centre's phone number in case they have questions or problems in the future.
Some residents of the city questioned the scheme.
"If you provide a lecture to sex workers publicly does that mean prostitution has been recognized as legal?" the newspaper quoted a woman surnamed Huang as saying.
The centre noted that prostitution does exist, despite continuous police efforts to crack down on the sex trade, and that spreading information about diseases and prevention was a practical and realistic approach to the issue.
Wen Yingchun, an official in charge of the centre's AIDS prevention and control division, said sex workers are among those who are most vulnerable to AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, and that neglecting this group would be irresponsible.
The sex workers said they were strongly in favour of such lectures, as they were previously unaware of how to protect themselves.
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