Wednesday 06 Oct 2021 | 17:40 | SYDNEY
Wednesday 06 Oct 2021 | 17:40 | SYDNEY

Fighting HIV and TB in China (part 2)


Bill Bowtell

14 November 2007 09:50

After our visit to rural Shaanxi province, the Global Fund delegation visited the largest gay bar in Xi’an, Shaanxi's capital. The fact that we visited the bar at all, and as part of a program organized by the provincial and national governments, demonstrates how far China has come in acknowledging social realities. It was a long way from my previous visit to Kunming in 1989, when the then provincial governor claimed HIV/AIDS would never be a problem in China because the revolution had abolished the social evils of homosexuality, prostitution and drug addiction.

AIDS display at Xi'an gay bar

At the bar we met the dedicated team of full-time staff and volunteers who use the bar as a base from which to educate the local gay community about HIV/AIDS, undertake testing and counseling, and provide support services of all kinds. Global Fund assistance helps this team to undertake their valuable work.

The bar owners, staff and customers were pleased to see us. We were entertained by a variety show, including a mini-drama about a mother finding out that her son had contracted HIV. The quality of the acting was astoundingly good and the message got through despite the language barrier.

I left Xi’an deeply impressed by the pragmatic, realistic way in which China is now tackling these serious threats to the health and well-being of their people.  The social and cultural difference between the remote village and the inner-city gay bar could not be greater.  Yet both of these small, hard-to-reach communities are being given the information and tools they need to protect themselves, and to cope with the consequences of infection as well as possible and free of discrimination.

The delegation was briefed on counseling services provided personally at the bar and through internet chat sites, and the voluntary HIV testing programs carried out by the staff. The delegation was then entertained by a spectacular variety show.