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Unsafe sex 'biggest threat' for gay men
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09:00, September 09, 2008

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The incidence of HIV/AIDS among Beijing's drug users is in decline but the city's gay community remains the most at-risk group, a local health official said on Friday.

He Xiong, deputy director of the Beijing center for disease control and prevention (CDC), said that based on figures for the first seven months, 1.5 percent of the city's drug users are HIV positive, compared with 5 percent in 2001.

In comparison, 5 percent of gay men in the capital are HIV positive, while 0.5 percent of unlicensed prostitutes are infected with the virus, He said, without giving figures for 2001.

"More than 43 percent of all newly reported cases are attributed to people having unprotected sex, and gay men are the most at risk," he said.

Research carried out over the past three years has shown that less than 50 percent of gay men use condoms, so promoting better health awareness among them is a major task, he said.

During the first seven months of the year, 563 new HIV cases were reported in Beijing, 118 of which involved local people and the rest migrant workers, He said.

New cases were reported in each of Beijing's 18 districts and counties, he said.

In the whole of last year 1,190 new cases were reported, up slightly on 2006, he said.

While the development of a comprehensive HIV/AIDS monitoring network - comprising 69 clinics and 128 laboratories - has helped keep the spread of the virus in check, high-risk groups must become more aware of the dangers, the head of a local volunteer group told China Daily yesterday.

Xiao Dong, chief of the Chaoyang Chinese AIDS Volunteer Group, said: "Gay people must voluntarily practice safe sex and take regular tests."

The efforts of groups like Xiao's are vital to reducing the health risks faced by Beijing's gay community, He said.

"They work closely with gay people and provide free condoms and confidential consultancy and test services."

Between January and July, more than 1 million people in Beijing had received an HIV test, He said.

Also, prevention and treatment clinics throughout the city now have intervention teams to work with high-risk groups. These people help not only with essential medical treatments, but also everyday matters such as problems at work, he said.

Source: China Daily

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