State-funded gay bar will open in Dali City on World AIDS Day
A state-funded gay bar will officially open in Dali City, Yunnan China tomorrow, December 1st. The official opening is being held on World AIDS Day to promote peer education on reducing AIDS transmission. This year's World AIDS Day theme is: Universal Access & Human Rights.
The Dali City Health Bureau has invested 120,000 yuan (US$17,575) in the bar, which has already been open for a month in a trial operation. About a dozen gay AIDS-prevention volunteers will operate the bar and spread the message about safe homosexual sex.
The idea of opening a gay bar in the city was first raised earlier this year as a platform to educate more homosexuals about AIDS transmission.
Zhang Jianbo, a doctor in a Dali hospital, said the city's AIDS-prevention work among gay men started in 2003. Zhang said it was a difficult start as gay men were difficult to find in those days due to fear of discrimination.
He said homosexual men only became more cooperative after he showed his good intentions in educating people about how to prevent the spread of AIDS.
In recent years, more than 10 gay men formed a volunteer team to conduct regular peer education through games and training, Zhang explained, leading to the idea of setting up a bar.
China's Health Minister Chen Zhu last week called for all of society's participation in the fight against HIV/AIDS and comprehensive intervention on behavior, medical and social therapy for at-risk groups of the population.
The city, in the southwestern Yunnan province, is one of the ten Chinese cities most affected by HIV and sex between men is thought to account for one third of transmissions.
In an interview with the Beijing News, founder Zhang Jianbo said the bar would be a meeting place for men who live in rural villages.
He added it would hand out free condoms and sex education. It will be staffed by volunteers.
Jiang Anmin, deputy director of health in Dali, told the paper: "Each year, the Dali city government spends 20,000 yuan on treatment drugs for AIDS. So if our bar succeeds in reducing transmission, our 120,000 yuan will be well-spent."
The newspaper reported that it had received some letters from readers complaining that the state-funded bar was a waste of money and would "promote" homosexuality.
However, one gay outreach group told Reuters that publicity around the opening of the bar could have an adverse effect if people were too frightened to enter it.