At least 80 percent of China's estimated five to 10 million gays mistakenly believe they are safe from HIV/AIDS, according to the country's first ever survey on the homosexual group.
he survey, conducted by the center of AIDS control and prevention under the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention in collaboration with its branch office in northeast China's Heilongjiang Province, found 80.6 percent of the gay men are totally ignorant of their exposure to the virus or underestimate the risk.
Lu Fan, chief of the center of AIDS control and prevention, said that among all sexually active Chinese men, approximately two to four percent are gays, and as many as 1.35 percent of those are infected with the AIDS virus.
The figure proves the high risk of the disease in the world's most populous country, said Lu. "The gay community is one of the most vulnerable groups but they have long been ignored in China," he added.
Infection rates among gay men were expected to rise rapidly unless prevention efforts were taken because many of them have extremely limited knowledge of the disease, practice unprotected sex and have multiple sex partners, said Lu.
About 50 percent of Chinese gays have more than one partner and some have had more than 100, according to the survey.
Meanwhile, the facts that 17.4 percent of the gays also have female partners and 12.6 percent of them are married have increased the likelihood for the virus to spread to heterosexuals and their offspring, said Wu Yuhua, a researcher with the Heilongjiang provincial center for disease control and prevention.
While the gay community in general knows little about HIV and AIDS, the little they know largely comes from TV, radio, newspapers and magazines and only 16.6 percent of the gays surveyed say they've been told by doctors, said Wu.
The expert therefore urged public health authorities and the general public to have a balanced attitude toward the homosexuals and make HIV/AIDS knowledge more available.
The survey was conducted in Harbin, capital of Heilongjiang. Information was largely collected from pubs, parks, public bathrooms, squares, cyber cafes and other public places. Chinese gays tend to shrink from revealing themselves in public for fear of prejudice and pressure from society and it's quite difficult to collect their information.