Beijing joins world focus on AIDS epidemic
PRIVATE activists and non-government organisations in Beijing are planning a wide range of activities tomorrow in an effort to call attention to the growing number of AIDS cases in China and to educate the public about how the deadly disease is spread.
December 1 has been designated by the World Health Organisation as World AIDS Day. Activists say they intend to distribute pamphlets, conduct discussion groups and hold small public gatherings.
A play entitled Things Related to AIDS was performed last night before 200 people in Beijing.
A group called the AIDS Action Project plans a full programme of public education activities tomorrow but, apparently concerned about official interference, has not announced full details in advance.
Organiser Wan Yanhai would only reveal that plans call for distribution of AIDS information at numerous locations. Mr Wan served as director of a Ministry of Health-sponsored AIDS information hotline until July last year, when he was removed following accusations by the ministry's party committee that he 'encouraged, rather than discouraged, homosexuality'.
A year ago, the Chinese Government set up its first anti-AIDS organisation, the National Association of Sexually Transmitted Diseases and AIDS Control and Prevention.
Foreign health workers say that the move marked an important change in official attitudes, which previously seemed to regard AIDS as a foreign disease that did not seriously threaten China.
According to Loren Clarke, an American AIDS writer and educator working in China since 1990, the importance of the issue is now well understood by health authorities.
'Nobody is sitting on their hands about this, and there is nobody with their head in the sand. They are boldly facing the AIDS problem in China and there is a great deal of willingness to do something.'