Los Angeles Times Profiles Physician Publishing AIDS Awareness Magazine for Gay Men in China
The Los Angeles Times on Sunday profiled Dr. Zhang Beichuan, a former dermatologist who now publishes Friend Exchange, a bimonthly AIDS awareness magazine for gay men in China, a country in which "such information is scarce, fueling ignorance and misconceptions that experts fear may precipitate a health crisis" in the nation's gay community. Funded by the New York City-based Ford Foundation, the magazine, which is the only publication in China written for the gay community, serves as a "primer for gay men on how to avoid AIDS." Each issue of the magazine includes at least 10 pages devoted to the topic of HIV/AIDS and a guide to safe sex for male readers. "We're still trying to put out basic information," Zhang said, adding, "Our volunteers tell us we need to keep repeating the ABCs" of HIV prevention. The Chinese gay community faces a "high risk" of AIDS, but the Chinese government and public have "neglected" the problem, the Times reports. Chinese health officials have predicted that about 10 million individuals in China will contract HIV or AIDS by 2010, but they have said "almost nothing" about the impact of AIDS on gay men in China, where the "taboo against talking about sex in general and homosexuality in particular" has hindered public health efforts aimed at "getting information to those in need." The China Society for the Prevention of AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Disease, for example, which includes Chinese officials, doctors and researchers, "stays relatively mute" on the issue of gay men and AIDS. "The people in that circle know that gays are a high-risk group. But you won't find 10 of them who are actually taking action and working with the gay community," Zhang said. According to a Western researcher who administers a foreign-funded AIDS program in Beijing, gay men account for one-third of the AIDS patients at two hospitals in the city "known for treating venereal disease," and the Times reports that the "infection rate among gay men is climbing, especially in major cities" (Chu, Los Angeles Times, 3/17).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.