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August 5, 2009

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Migrants get the message on AIDS

A PROGRAM on HIV/AIDS awareness targeting China's migrant workers has been hailed as a success.

The 32-month HIV/AIDS Workplace Education Program had resulted in "positive changes," sources with its initiator, the International Labor Organization, said yesterday.

The program had raised the condom use among participants from 49 percent to 73 percent, said the program's Chief Technical Advisor Richard Howard, citing impact survey results.

About 94 percent said they knew the virus was not spread through casual non-sexual contact, up from 38 percent in a baseline survey.

And 84 percent reported a willingness to work with colleagues living with HIV, up from 40 percent.

Howard, however, noted the survey was based on samples mainly in high-risk sectors of migrant workers, such as the construction and coal mine sectors, so the results could not represent all the country's 130 million migrant population.

Launched in January 2007, the program has reached 50 million rural migrant workers through the ILO Hometown Fellows Campaign for Rural Migrant Workers, according to Howard.

The program also reached 250,000 workers with HIV workplace policies and intervention programs in private and state-owned enterprises in Guangdong, Yunnan and Anhui provinces.

Bernhard Schwartlander, UNAIDS Country Coordinator in China, which was a partner of the program, said he was impressed with some of the program's training sections by the positive engagement and laughter of people involved.

"Preventing AIDS and getting the message across on HIV/AIDS can actually be fun," he said. "That's the most effective way of getting messages across."

Schwartlander applauded a seven-minute humor piece "Never Abandon, Never Give Up," a short Charlie Chaplin-style film exclusively produced as a major education tool for the program.

Liu Kangmai, an official with the State Council AIDS Prevention and Control Working Committee, said more than 45,000 people in the country were reported to have contracted HIV in 2008, including more than 14,000 AIDS patients.


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