China has a plan to stop the spread of HIV among men.
The South China Morning Post reports Beijing is aiming to educate 90 percent of its high-risk population and lower the mother-to-child transmission rate by four percent.
The plan, released by China’s State Council in January, intends to target men who have sex with men with a goal of lowering the infection rate by 10 percent by the year 2020.
“MSM infection is where the real epidemic is, Chen Zhiwei, Founder of the AIDS Institute at the University of Hong Kong told the Morning Post. “It is the major problem for China in its public health policies today.”
Homosexuality is not illegal in China, but still frowned upon by society. Lack of acceptance, activists argue, is a driving factor for risky behaviors and increased HIV rates.
“Overall acceptance (of gays) is a challenge,” Chen told the Morning Post.
The rate of gay male HIV transmission increased from 2.5 percent in 2006 to 28 percent during the first nine months of 2016. With 96,000 new cases in a nine-month span, experts labeled China’s HIV statistics an “epidemic.”
A 2016 study by the Chinese Medical Journal found only half of gay men in Beijing used condoms consistently.
China is home to the world’s largest population – 1.3 billion. A 2012 estimate by the Central Intelligence Agency ranked China 11th globally in HIV cases with 780,000.
Cooperation between gay groups and the government is vital, Jing Jun, Director of Tsinghua University’s AIDS Policy Research Institute, told the Morning Post.