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July 28, 2010

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Home » Metro » Health and Science

Free condoms join AIDS fight

NEARLY 80 percent of HIV carriers and AIDS patients registered in Shanghai caught the virus through unprotected sex, local officials said yesterday.

That's why health authorities appreciate a move by condom-maker Jissbon to donate 300 condom vending machines and 500,000 condoms to be distributed at hotels to increase AIDS awareness among visitors to the World Expo.

"Unprotected sex is a major virus vehicle in cities like Shanghai," said Zhuang Minghua, the AIDS control office's assistant director. "So promotion of the use of condom is the most effective and useful method to prevent HIV/AIDS, especially under the current big flow of people into the city for the World Expo."

In May, the Shanghai AIDS Prevention and Control Commission kicked off a condom promotion program, announcing plans to have free condoms available by 2012 in 90 percent of public venues such as hotels, residential complexes, wet markets, entertainment venues and construction sites.

So far, condom availability is still low, but officials didn't give any figures.

Zhuang said that local authorities have embarked on campaigns to reach out to sex workers, gays and other high-risk groups to teach about safer practices.

Health officials have visited entertainment venues like karaokes and gay bars to convey knowledge on AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases and to stress the importance of condoms.

"Now, 76 percent of the high risk population use condoms and 90 percent know AIDS knowledge, while only 30 percent of them used condoms and knew how to protect themselves from HIV/AIDS in 2005," he said.

Local incidence of HIV/AIDS cases involving men who have sex with men has risen rapidly in recent years.

The incidence of syphilis from 2005 to 2007 remained around 12 to 13 percent, but HIV/AIDS increased every year. The incidence rate was 1.5 percent in 2005, 4.1 percent in 2006 and 7.5 percent in 2007, according to the Shanghai Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

By December 1 last year, the city had registered 4,828 HIV carriers and 834 AIDS patients. Men who had sex with men made up 26.5 percent of new HIV cases last year, while drug use accounted for 18.4 percent.


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