On the Guardian website, Joe Amon takes a critical look at the Chinese government’s AIDS prevention efforts:
More than 25 years into the global Aids epidemic, one thing we’ve learned is that you can’t fight HIV through artful, oblique messages approved by government ministries and broadcast on television. Where HIV prevalence has declined, what has made the difference is frank, specific discussion about HIV, why people are at risk and what can be done to avoid infection. Grassroots, community-led efforts which empower those at highest risk have been critical, and the emergence of an organised, vocal civil society, advocating an end to sexual violence and access to information, condoms, clean needles, and medicines, have changed the face of the epidemic in many countries.
While the Chinese government has taken some steps in this direction, too much of the response remains style over substance. Those groups most vulnerable to infection – injecting drug users, men who have sex with men, and sex workers – are still routinely harassed and abused by the police, and driven away from the information and services that could help them. Aids activists continue to be detained, intimidated and prevented from speaking out.