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Chinese Attitudes Toward Sex Maturing
2004/10/26
A university student surnamed Lin recently took the unusual step of attending a lecture on the prevention of HIV/AIDS together with her parents at her home in Yichun city in northeast China's Heilongjiang Province.

"Many young people are too shy to talk about sex-related issues with their parents," said Lin, "but only after we understand such issues can we protect ourselves."

The lecture, jointly organized by the "Harbin friends' hotlineā€ and the Harbin Sanitation and Epidemic Prevention Center, attracted more than 60 local citizens like Lin and her parents.

As China's first hotline on homosexual health, the "Harbin friends' hotline", took the lead among a dozen similar hotlines nationwide, all based in China's big cities, to spread sex-related knowledge to small places like Yichun.

Topics candidly discussed during the lecture, like safe sex, prevention of venereal disease and HIV/AIDS and psychological support for groups exposed to sexually transmitted diseases, are often taboo subjects for discussion in Chinese families.

"Lin's participation with her parents indicates that the attitude toward sex among Chinese families, especially among the younger generation, is marching towards maturity," said Zhang Jingdong, an official with the Harbin Sanitation and Epidemic Prevention Center, one of the organizers.

Official figures released by China's Ministry of Health show that HIV sufferers number more than 1 million in China. Both the number of patients falling ill with the disease and the death toll is on the rise, and the number of people infected because of unsafe sex is also growing.

In 2002, China reported some 9,824 newly infected HIV patients, up 19.5 percent on the previous year. Of that figure, some 1,045 were full-blown AIDS patients and 363 died.

Zhang Weiqing, minister of the State Commission for Population and Family Planning, warned that AIDS has entered its rapid growth stage in China, and among all HIV patients, young people from 15 to 29 years old account for 60 percent.

"An effective way of prevention is to educate the younger generation with the possible transmission methods of the disease, proper means of prevention and appropriate moral standards so as to enable them to protect themselves", said Zhang.

A primary school teacher attending the lecture said she was often too embarrassed to talk about sex with her students.

"After learning about the proper way of communication during the lecture, I'm confident of conducting healthy and helpful communication with the kids in the future," she added.

Though the lecture has been a success, Zhang Jingdong was both pleased and worried.

"We realized once again that the general public are poor in knowledge about HIV/AIDS," said Zhang, citing as proof that few participants knew how the disease was transmitted.

"We will continue with similar activities in remote rural areas in the future," he said.

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