translation agency

Reuters New Media
China Health Officials Debate AIDS Prevention Laws

October 6, 2000
BEIJING (Reuters) - China is drafting laws to manage HIV and AIDS prevention in a bid to curb the spread of the killer disease that currently infects at least 500,000 Chinese, state media said on Friday.

But health officials are locked in debate over whether the law should allow the distribution of condoms and sex education to China's prostitutes and their customers, the China Daily reported. "Many people are not ready to accept such measures, nor would they accept the distribution of condoms in hotels and universities," the newspaper quoted Chen Baozhen, director of the Ministry of Health's infectious disease prevention and supervision office, as saying.

With the number of infected people expected to double within a decade, the ministry hoped to have regulations ready to be put into effect soon, the newspaper said. No timetable was given.

Conservative attitudes towards sex are proving resilient in China. A Shenzhen company's campaign to hand out free condoms at Beijing universities and colleges on World AIDS Day last year met with frowns of disapproval from students.

China also banned its first national condom advertisement last year, because promoting sex products conflicted with China's social conventions and morals, state media said.

The newspaper said legal experts wanted an amendment to criminal laws that would punish people who intentionally infected others with HIV, the virus that causes Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome or AIDS.

But drafting such a law was difficult, Ministry of Health officials said. "How can the law confirm whether or not an HIV/AIDS patient infects others intentionally?" Chen was quoted as asking.

Often HIV/AIDS victims did not know they were infected when engaging in unsafe sexual activities, sharing needles or giving blood, he said.

Present laws state that people who are infected with sexually transmitted diseases but still engage in illicit sexual activities, such as prostitution, face a five-year prison term. But HIV/AIDS is not considered a sexually transmitted disease under these laws.

While China's health officials expect the number of HIV infected people to double in a decade, United Nations statistics show HIV, if left unchecked, will spread to about 10 million Chinese citizens before 2010.



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