Opening of SW China's gay pub delayed under pressure 2009-12-01 17:30:07   Print

    DALI, Yunnan, Dec. 1 (Xinhua) -- Opening of a high-profile gay pub in southwest China's Yunnan Province was delayed due to too much publicity, said its founder on Tuesday, the 22nd World AIDS Day.

    The pub in the tourist city of Dali which has drawn nationwide attention was set to open on Tuesday.

    "The pub will open sooner or later," said its founder Zhang Jianbo, who was a doctor from the Dali No.2 People's Hospital.

    The generic pub, covering about 60 square meters, nestled in a small alley. Run by more than 10 volunteers from the Good Friend Working Group in Dali, it started trial operation in this past November.

    "At that time, some 20 to 30 gays would drop in to learn more about AIDS prevention," said Zhang. "They showed recognition and a sense of belonging," he said.

    It was put into spotlight by media, after a report by the Beijing News said that it was funded by the local government.

    "The government earmarked 120,000 yuan (about 17,647 U.S. dollars) to a social group who runs the pub," Jiang Anmin, deputy director of the Dali health bureau, was quoted as saying.

    According to Zhang Jianbo, however, the pub was funded by the Barry & Martins Trust and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

    Despite of his explanation, more news media followed to report on the pub, and too much publicity gave volunteers increasing pressure.

    "In some of the media reports, details of the pub were described and those going in and out of the pub were labeled as gays," Zhang said.

    Unwilling to be looked at through "tinted lens", many volunteers soon hid away, or considered quitting their job in the Good Friend Working Group, he said.

    Even Zhang himself felt pushed. He showed Xinhua reporter a text message in his phone, in which he was denounced as "folly" to open the pub and advised to "help gays get rid of their bad habits."

    Li Jun, head of the health bureau of Dali, added that the media reports attracted curious visitors, which affected normal intervention efforts to the gay group.

    "Too much attention would keep the gays, who are reluctant to be recognized, out of the pub," Zhang said.

    The Ministry of Health estimated that 740,000 people were living with HIV in China at the end of 2009. Among the 48,000 new infections in 2009, 32 percent, or nearly one-third, were through sexual transmission between men, said the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).

    The border province of Yunnan has about 23 percent of China's reported HIV infected people and AIDS patients, while Dali is one of the worst-hit areas in the province.

    Experts estimated that Yunnan has more than 850,000 gays, with about 6,000 publicly admitted to their sex orientation.

    "A pub could invite so much controversy. This shows that in a short period, prejudice against HIV/AIDS and the gay group couldn't be eliminated," said Lu Lin, expert with the Yunnan Provincial Disease Control and Prevention.

    "But in terms of disease control, such pubs should be encouraged," he said.

    His view was shared by Li Jun.

    "In Dali more than 60 percent of the gays are from rural areas, who have little sex knowledge and face poor health care condition," he said.

    By taking the pub as a platform, Li noted that they could get more access to the gay group so as to conduct their work.

    On the Internet, however, many netizens voiced against the pub. A 19-year-old gay nicknamed Yan Zi showed his worry.

    "We don't need people's understanding, but please don't abuse us. We haven't disturbed your life. We just want to lead our own normal life," he said.

    Zhang Jianbo hoped that the public could leave them alone.

    "Don't give them too much concern, just treat them as anyone else."

Special Report: World AIDS Day 2009

Editor: Xiong Tong
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