TV & Radio
China "cautiously" reaches out to homosexuals for sex education
www.chinaview.cn 2006-03-28 22:56:15
by Xinhua writer Xu Lingui
SHENZHEN, March 28 (Xinhua) -- The buzz in the half-packed conference room with over 100 Chinese family planning experts lowered to a hush when Liu Shujie took to the stage to talk about her project - giving sex education to homosexuals.
As a member of the family planning association of Wuchang district of Wuhan, capital city of Central China's Hubei Province, Liu said she and her colleagues got involved with the gay community early in 2003 when she received a call at the office asking for advice.
"The boy broke into tears, saying the man he loved walked away from him after finding out he was gay," Liu recalled. "I was really puzzled and did not know what to do."
Liu's reaction was common among most of the straight people in China, where homosexuality, once considered as "a mental illness", is still a taboo. Gays and lesbians are mostly still living in the closet.
Liu said she decided to provide sex education for the gay community as she found most of the people changed partners frequently and rarely used condoms. She then gained support from the Family Planning Association of China (FPA) and the International Planned Parenthood Federation.
On March 28, Liu joined other family planning FPA officials from all over China in the southern city of Shenzhen to review the country's sex education efforts over the past five years, especially with the support of international organizations like PATH from the U.S. and Japan Trust Fund.
They talked about sex education for young people in schools, in the military, in prisons, and for migrant workers and truck drivers, a key population in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
Liu said the number of gay men in Wuhan was an estimated 100,000 and lesbians about 20,000. "Our survey shows only 32.5 percent of the 867 homosexuals polled used condoms in their most sexual intercourse, and 1.27 percent of the men were found to be infected with AIDS," she said.
The buzz rose from the audience again as Liu spoke on.
"Many gay men know how to use condoms but they just don't want to use them; and we also find a number of men only having sex out of curiosity," she said.
There are 18 gay bars, public bathing pools, and mah-jong rooms scattered around Wuhuan for gay gatherings, Liu said, adding that her association became very familiar with these places as they tried to reach out to the group.
"It was difficult at first to approach them, but now we are getting along very well and I have many gay friends," Liu said. "And in this way, we can educate them on safe sex and prevention of AIDS or venereal diseases."
She said about 200 homosexuals were involved in her sex education programs, 27 people (aged between 18 and 74) including gays were trained as program leaders for peer education, and 18 gay bar owners had participated in the program.
Condoms, sex tools, anti-HIV booklets were handed out as gifts in each education gathering, she said, showing the audience a slide show of a lesbian dancing on one of their gatherings. The banner hanging behind the girl reads: peer education for AIDS prevention among the gay community.
"Do gays get married in Wuhan?" A listener from Guangdong asked with concern.
"No. They want to, but the law does not permit it." Liu answered briefly.
"How bad does homosexuality affect the family and society ?" Another question was raised.
"Most of the elder gay men have wives and children, but they are hiding their sexual orientation from their family. The wives live a miserable life with husbands who cannot love them." Liu said, adding that some wives were infected with diseases transmitted from their gay husbands.
But the social stigma is so strong that gay people are under great pressure, Liu said. "I hope they can get care and support from the public." She said the association was running out of funds to get more gay people involved in sex education programs.
"They need a clear blue sky, just like all of you," Liu ended her speech to long applause. Enditem
Editor: Luan Shanglin