The number of gay men who are HIV positive has exploded in China over the past three years, according to the preliminary results from a survey by the Chinese government.
A nationwide survey on China's gay men showed 4.9 percent were HIV positive, up from 0.4 percent in 2005, said a senior health official here Friday.
"Sex becomes the major way of AIDS transmission in China and its spread among men having sex with men was worsening notably. I think whether we can well control the AIDS transmission among gays will greatly affect the future of the whole country's battle against the epidemic," said Hao Yang, deputy director of the disease control department under the Ministry of Health.
According to separate figures also released by the Ministry of Health Friday, 40.4 percent of those who contracted the virus this year were infected through sex between men and women, 5.1 were infected through same-sex intercourse, and 28.3 percent were through injection drug use, Hao said. In 2005, only 0.4 percent were infected through same-sex intercourse.
The survey was done in 61 Chinese cities on more than 18,000 gay men, said Wu Zunyou, director of the National Center for AIDS/STD Control and Prevention under the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
The health department did the first survey on gay men in 2005, only in three cities. The second survey was launched in five cities in 2006.
"But we have seen the rate increased notably in the same city in the three surveys," Wu said.
Among the cities surveyed, the highest incidence of HIV positive among gay men reached 15 percent of those surveyed, said Hao. But he did not name the city.
Chinese society is more and more tolerant toward behavior like one-night stands and multiple sex partners, which affected both straight and gay people, said Prof. Zhang Beichuan from Qingdao University, an expert on homosexual issues. "This was one of the reasons that sex became a main way of transmission and more gay men were positive.
"But, unlike straight people, gay people did not enjoy a supporting environment to develop stable and long-term partnerships. This is also an important reason why they turn to risky sexual behaviors," he added.
A larger scale of survey might also contribute to a rising ratio, he said.
The health department plans to set up an assistance network for HIV positive and AIDS patients among gays and work with gay bar owners on prevention, Hao said.
"More money should be spent on community prevention organizations. More efforts should be made to encourage gay people themselves to take part in prevention programs," Zhang said.
"Less discrimination against homosexuals and more supporting social environment will help a lot as well."
Last year, the Chinese mainland saw its HIV positive population increase by 50,000. That is, 137 people were infected every day in average.
By September, China reported about 260,000 HIV positive in total, among whom 77,000 were AIDS patients. About 34,000 have died so far.