Sunday, December 20, 2009

Chinese government-backed gay bar opens to help educate about HIV/AIDS

"China's first government-backed gay bar has opened after a three-week delay sparked by intense media attention, a charity said Sunday, in a nation where homosexuality is still a sensitive subject," reports Channel News Asia. "The bar opened Saturday in a low-key fashion in the tourist town of Dali in the southwestern province of Yunnan, Zhang Jianbo, founder of the Dali HIV/AIDS prevention and health association, the organisation behind the initiative, told AFP. Homosexuality in China -- where it was officially considered a mental illness until 2001 -- is still an extremely sensitive issue. Gay men and women find it difficult to come out to their friends and family. One of the reasons lies in the nation's one-child policy, which makes parents rely on their only child to marry and produce grandchildren. Read more at Channel News Asia.

Govt-backed gay bar opens after postponement

China Daily reports:
The first government-backed gay bar in China has opened in a quiet way after being delayed for almost three weeks due to intense media attention. Without ribbon cutting, a simple ceremony was nevertheless held to mark the opening of the bar Saturday night in the tourist city of Dali in southwestern Yunnan Province. More than 60 people, mostly gay men, and 10 volunteers, also gays, attended the ceremony. Customers were given condoms free of charge. "Their arrival gave me great support. Some of them came from outside Dali specially for the opening," Zhang Jianbo, the bar's owner, told Xinhua in a telephone interview Sunday.

Zhang, 36, is also director of the Dermatological Department of the Dali Municipal No. 2 People's Hospital and founder of the Dali HIV/AIDS Prevention and Health Association, a non-governmental organization. "Starting from December 20, the bar will open nine hours every day, from 3 pm to 12 pm," he said. The minimum charge at the bar is a bottle of Coca Cola at 5 yuan, and tea and some snacks are free, he said. "The charges are just for the need of bar operation, and we are not aiming for profits. Customers need not worry about that," he added.

Zhang and his colleagues hope that the bar can provide a platform to educate gay men about AIDS, as a report released last month by UNAIDS (Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS) and China's Ministry of Health alerted the nation to the spread of HIV/AIDS among gay men.

Health Minister Chen Zhu said sexual transmission has become the major cause of infection, accounting for more than 70 percent of all newly detected HIV/AIDS cases, and sexual transmission among gay men accounted for 32 percent. The ministry and the UNAIDS estimate that China will have 560,000 to 920,000 living HIV carriers, with 97,000 to 112,000 AIDS patients by the end of 2009. READ MORE