China: Condoms Use Helps Fight Against HIV/AIDS

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture
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The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday examined how China is increasingly promoting condoms as a method of HIV prevention. While HIV "has long thrived quietly on the fringes of Chinese society" among injection drug users and tainted blood recipients, there is now a risk of HIV spreading further into the general population. One reason is the "booming " sex work industry in China which "has helped make sex the most common form of" HIV transmission in the country, according to the Journal. This has given rise to increased promotion of condom use to prevent HIV from spreading. A recent survey by UNAIDS conducted in six major cities in China found that 54% of respondents said they would use a condom when having sex with a new partner

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China's "hopes of stopping the disease from turning into the country's next health crisis may rest with the efforts of people like Guan Baoying," who has "defied standard government attitudes about high-risk groups" such as sex workers, the Journal reports. Guan first encountered HIV/AIDS in the mid-1980s when she worked at Beijing's Center for Disease Control. She then began visiting detention centers in Beijing that held sex workers to educate women about HIV/AIDS prevention. According to the Journal, "[t]ens of thousands of massage parlors and karaoke bars double as brothels, where businessmen and migrant workers can contract the disease and carry it to their hometowns and families." Sex workers are "disadvantaged people in society," Guan said, adding, "No one cares about them."

In 2004, Guan garnered support from 12 government departments for a regulation that aimed to increase condom access in Beijing. In March 2006, a regulation issued by the State Council required government-designated public places, including hotels, to install condom vending machines or provide access to condoms through another method. Beijing in May 2008 began requiring that condoms be placed in all public places, such as restrooms, karaoke bars and large construction sites. "It is by no means easy for Beijing to take this step, and I am very happy to see it happen finally," Guan said.

Guan in 2007 retired as the head of disease control at the Beijing Municipal Health Bureau and now works for the Beijing office of the HIV/AIDS program of the Global Fund To Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Although many parts of China have not adopted her approach to HIV/AIDS prevention, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in 2007 adopted Guan's prevention and outreach model and began replicating it in 12 provinces. "We have done our best to make people aware of the importance of wearing condoms, but it's hard to judge how many of them will actually do it," she said (Zamiska/Fowler, Wall Street Journal, 11/18).

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