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Sex education campaign plans to get past traditional taboos

CHINA launched a national sex education campaign yesterday aimed at breaking traditional taboos and getting more people to seek treatment for sexually transmitted diseases and infertility.

Just 7 percent of women and slightly more than 8 percent of men seek immediate medical help for sexual problems, while more than a third of people never seek help, said one of the campaign's advisors.

"These numbers are shocking," said Xia Enlan, head of the obstetrics and gynecology department of the Capital Medical University's Fuxing Hospital in Beijing.

"The numbers who get medical attention for sexual problems are extremely small," she added. "This delays treatment for some very serious diseases."

The campaign, called "The sunshine project to care for gender health," will feature posters, competitions and sponsorship of a sex toy fair in Beijing, organizers said, in a bid to breach "painful topics" of sex.

It will be fronted by Hong Kong starlet Yvonne Yung and her husband Will Liu, who will be the campaign's "image ambassadors."

"Sexual health is an important part of family life and good for helping build a harmonious society," said Cui Yandi of the China Woman and Child Development Center, one of the sponsors.

China reported a one-fifth rise in syphilis last year, with a total of 257,474 cases, according to the Health Ministry, though gonorrhea cases dropped by 10 percent.

HIV/AIDS in China is also now mainly sexually transmitted.

In the past, most infections were caused by intravenous drug use.

By the end of 2007, China had an estimated 700,000 people infected with HIV, up from an earlier estimate of 650,000. There are believed to be many unreported cases.

While the government has rolled out a television campaign to promote condom use, a major move for a country where talking about sex is problematic for many people, Xia said traditional shyness about discussing sex remains a huge issue.

"It's taboo. The influence of feudalistic thinking has been around for many years. People are not very open," Xia said.

"People need to talk about it now that the economy has grown so fast and we're becoming more open," Xia added.


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