China uses gay bars to spread safe sex message

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Free condoms, AIDS awareness posters and even safe-sex themed dance performances are some of the tools being used by venue owners in Beijing to educate their patrons about the dangers of HIV.

Staff will be offered bonuses for educating gay men about safe sex in a joint campaign in nineteen of the city’s gay bars.

“When our volunteers promoted the concept of safe sex in entertainment places, people always showed antipathy to us,” Xiao Dong, chief executive of Chaoyang Chinese Aids Volunteer Group, told China Daily.

“The managers disliked us because it affected business. But now we have persuaded the owners to join in this campaign and make a united front.”

The new scheme comes in the light of recent statistics on HIV/AIDS in China. According to the Chinese Centre for Disease Control, the number of HIV-positive men who have sex with men (MSM) has doubled since 2004, with only 10-20% of China’s estimated 20 million MSM using condoms.

Xiao said that the rise of the internet means young men of only 16 are exploring their sexuality and being exposed to the virus.

“I believe gays in China face less discrimination than in the West. Some people think it is just different sexual orientation,” one bar owner surnamed Sun, who signed the AIDS education campaign statement, told China Daily.

“But this community still faces a lot of trouble and difficulties. The soaring pandemic is our greatest enemy.”