Gay, Lesbian and HIV Grassroots Growing in China

Published: January 4, 2012

Increased awareness is changing what was stigmatized treatment of HIV/Aids in China. This year the country will host its first ‘AIDS Walk’, which will include a trek along the Great Wall.

There are officially 780,000 people living with HIV/Aids in China, but stigma and discrimination means that people are afraid to get tested. Anyone taking an HIV test at an official disease control body must give their ID number.

But international bodies like the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria are backing grassroots groups like one run by gay man Nan Feng in the sprawling city of Chongqing, which also offers testing as part of its AIDS prevention work.

According to Zhang Beichuan, a Chinese AIDS expert, there now more than 200 such non-governmental groups in China.

Nan launched a website for gays in 1998. Three years later a local newspaper interviewed him on his AIDS-prevention work.

After the interview was published, Nan’s colleagues surreptitiously put the full-page newspaper report about him unfolded on his desk.

"The people around me had the common prejudice that all gays have AIDS," he said.

He quit his job and the group starting distributing condoms at gay bars and promoting the website.

Landian, established in the provincial capital of Taiyuan in 2006, has provided free and private HIV tests for more than 450 gay males and their family members since September 2010.

With the help of Landian, volunteer groups were set up in another five cities in the province of Shanxi last year.

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