The Chinese government released an action plan on Wednesday to combat the 'serious' problem of the spread of HIV and AIDS in the country.
In a statement reported by Reuters the government said the spread of AIDS in China is 'still severe' and 'the virus is a serious (problem) in some areas and amongst high-risk groups'.
The government’s plan proposes that condoms or condom vending machines should be available in 95% of hotels and other ‘public areas’ (unspecified) by 2015. The plan states that in three years time ‘90 percent of high-risk groups should be using condoms’ and that the number of people living with HIV and AIDS will be capped at 1.2 million, around 780,000 more than there are now.
‘By the end 2015, bring under basic control the rapid rise of the AIDS virus in main areas and among main groups of people, and reduce by 25 percent compared with 2010 the number of new infections,’ the government statement said.
Those who work in the field say that one problem is that condoms are used by the police as evidence of prostitution, so that discourages their use. To tackle ignorance among local officials, the plan says that the official’s knowledge of AIDS and ability to promote public education will form part of their annual performance reviews.
Yanhai Wan who worked in AIDS prevention running the NGO Aizhixing in Beijing before moving to Canada in 2010, says the government needs to change their tactics to curb the spread of the virus.
‘The Chinese government has been trying to manage the health problem of HIV infection and other infectious diseases by controlling people,’ Yanhai told Gay Star News. ‘It’s better to teach people, to educate people, to open public communication and public information and to help people manage public health themselves.’
Yanhai said that ordinary Chinese people are not aware of the extent of the problem, and although they know that HIV is an issue they don’t think they or their family are in danger. He said it is particularly a problem for the estimated 16 million women who are married to gay men. ‘The woman have no awareness of their husband’s sexuality. People get infected without awareness and knowledge.’
One way to increase awareness of sexual health issues is to lift the 2007 ban on discussion of sexuality on TV and radio, Yanhai said. ‘If we don’t have public education how can people have awareness of the diversities of sexuality and the risks of sexual behaviours,’ he said.
The government statement acknowledged that people with HIV and AIDS face 'widespread discrimination in society'. That statement shows the progress made sense the 1990s when the government tried to cover-up a tragic case when hundreds of thousands became inflected by selling their blood in rural Henan province.
Last year a film staring well-known actress Zhang Ziyi, Love for Life (also known as Til Death Do Us Part and Life is a Miracle) along with an accompanying in documentary, Together, put a sensitive spot-light on the blood-selling scandal and the stigma that those with HIV and AIDS face in China.