He fights AIDS where gays gather

09:41, December 02, 2009      

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Every weekend during the past two years, PP Xu has gone to pubs, bathhouses and parks in the city to talk with gays, teaching them to prevent AIDS and giving free condoms.

Xu is a volunteer for the Chi Heng Foundation, a non-government organization devoted to helping gays in AIDS prevention.

The 28-year-old man has devoted his part time to the foundation in the past four years. It's an important part of his life.

"I myself am a gay. Helping others is also a method to help myself," Xu said.

Xu works in a state-owned enterprise. None of his colleagues knows he is gay, nor that he works as an anti-AIDS volunteer. He asked that his name be withheld in this article.

Every weekend, Xu goes out with several other volunteers to little-known pubs, bathhouses and parks where gay men gather. Their aim is to educate them about AIDS - how to use condoms and how to protect themselves.

"Many gay men, especially middle-aged, are more ignorant about this than we imagine, and many of them don't have any protection," Xu said.

Besides telling them the basics, volunteers encourage about 30 gay people every month to get free HIV tests on Mengzi Road. About 6 percent turn up positive.

"AIDS is more easily to be infected between gays, and education among this group of people is especially important," Xu said.

The infection rate of AIDS between gay people has increased to 7.2 percent in 2009 from 2 percent in 2007, according to Zhuang Minghua, who leads the city's AIDS at-risk intervention team.

Besides AIDS, gays are also likely to talk with the volunteers about their problems, physical and mental.

"They are too depressed in the real world, and many of them are not willing to communicate with normal people because they consider themselves as inferior," Xu said.

"They are more willing to talk to us, compared with doctors, because we are the same group."

For example, Xu once talked with a middle-aged gay who was struggling between his family and his gay partner. Gay as he was, the man was forced to marry when he was young and had a child. He felt guilty to his family but couldn't stop himself from looking for gay partners. He cannot talk to anyone else and lives an unhappy life.

"The society was not so open and gays in most occasions are not accepted by the society or the family," Xu said. "The trees around the greenery area are just like doors, separating the two worlds. Gays lock themselves in and the normal cannot get into their inner world. We want to act as the key."

Sometimes, the volunteers may face rejection and misunderstanding.

"They drive us away, but it doesn't mean they don't need any help. Sometimes, they will call our hotline afterwards."

There are about 40 anti-AIDS promotion volunteers in the Chi Heng Foundation and most of them are gays and lesbians.

"What we can do is very limited, the special group needs care from all over the society," said Cao Ying, another volunteer from the Chi Heng Foundation.

Source: China Daily

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