HIV spreads among Beijing's gays

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 06 September, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 06 September, 2008, 12:00am

The transmission of HIV among homosexuals in Beijing is more commonplace than through sex workers, the capital's disease control centre said yesterday.

Up to 5 per cent of homosexuals in the city were infected, compared with 0.5 per cent of female sex workers, He Xiong , deputy director of the Beijing Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, told Xinhua.

The official did not give exact figures or past records, but it is understood the number of homosexual HIV carriers in Beijing is on the rise.

Professor He attributed the increase of HIV transmission among the homosexuals to unsafe sex, Xinhua said. 'Some gays don't have due knowledge on HIV and Aids. Condoms were used in fewer than half of their sex acts,' Xinhua quoted him as saying.

Despite society's increasing tolerance of homosexuality in recent years, discrimination was still prevalent. Homosexuals usually kept their sexual orientation secret, making it difficult for authorities to target the group and help them improve awareness of the disease, Xinhua said.

Beijing authorities found 563 people infected among 1 million blood samples inspected from January to the end of June. Among them, 118 were pregnant women, Professor He said.

The percentage of infections from mother to baby, from blood products and needle sharing among drug addicts had dropped, Xinhua reported without providing figures.

It attributed the drop to the city government's prevention and education efforts. Until recently, HIV has been a taboo topic on the mainland.

The country had about 214,000 registered HIV cases by July 30 last year. But officials admitted many HIV-positive people did not report their cases.

According to the last major survey in 2005 by the Ministry of Health, Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/Aids and World Health Organisation, the number of people suffering from HIV in China was estimated at 650,000.