Beijing to set up condom machines in all universities

By Zhang Hui Source:Global Times Published: 2015-4-9 0:33:01

Health authorities push safe sex despite college officials’ reluctance

All Beijing universities are expected to install condom vending machines this year and introduce an HIV/AIDS prevention class for freshmen, a move to curb the increase of the disease among college students.

Curbing the spread of the infection through sex in the capital city's universities is listed as one of the main targets of this year's HIV/AIDS prevention program, Xie Hui, director of the disease control and prevention department of the Beijing Municipal Commission of Health and Family Planning, told the Global Times during a press conference on Wednesday.

Aside from installing condom vending machines, the commission will also work with the education department to introduce HIV/AIDS prevention education to the college students' military training, Xie said.

"We will also help establish students clubs and build a team of volunteers to promote safe sex and HIV/AIDS prevention on campus," Xie said.

Chinese HIV/AIDS experts hailed the move but said that it would be an uphill climb. 

"Universities should have installed condom vending machines a decade ago," said Zhang Beichuan, a sexologist and professor with the affiliated hospital of Qingdao University Medical College.

The health authorities and experts have been appealing to universities in China to install condom vending machines for many years, but were repeatedly turned down.

"Most universities share a common misconception that promoting the use of condoms encourages students to have sex. But does that mean if we don't talk about sex, students will not have sex?" Zhang told the Global Times.

Several universities in Nanjing, Jiangsu Province opposed a local health department's proposal to introduce condom vending machines at their universities in 2011, and the proposal has since been dropped.

Introducing condom vending machines in universities may not be feasible in the long run, Jing Jun, a sociology professor at Tsinghua University, told the Global Times.

"Vending machines require regular staff to replenish them, but that service may not last long," Jing said.

Condom vending machines appeared in Tsinghua University several years ago, but were out of use only after a year or two due to poor maintenance, according to Jing.

Asking Tsinghua University to reinstall those machines is unnecessary, as convenience stores and pharmacies inside or near the university sell condoms, Jing said.

Although condoms are available for students at many universities, the number of students infected with HIV/AIDS continues to rise.

Beijing identified a total of 2,932 people infected with HIV/AIDS from January to October in 2014, up 21 percent compared with the same period the previous year, with over 100 of those carriers being students. Ninety five percent of transmissions were through sex, according to the Beijing health authority.

Infections among students are on the rise nationwide. The number of people aged between 15 and 24 infected with HIV/AIDS almost doubled from 2008 to 2012, with homosexual sex as the most common cause, the Xinhua News Agency reported in 2014. 

Liu Wei, a Beijing lawyer and a member of the Beijing Association of STD and AIDS Prevention and Control, told the Global Times that most young people think condoms are used for preventing pregnancy, but are unaware of the importance of condoms in preventing HIV/AIDS.

The lack of condom use awareness among young people shows that it's crucial for schools to introduce sex education, Zhang said.

"A 45-minute class on HIV/AIDS prevention proposed by the Beijing health department on the dangers of sex may only scare off college students," Zhang said.

Experts agree that universities should have sex education in their curriculum, with topics touching on safe sex and HIV/AIDS prevention.

Only a few universities in China offer sex education courses as electives.

The courses have proven to be very popular among students and even attracts people from outside the universities.

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