China opens state-backed gay bar to fight spread of Aids

China's first government-backed gay bar has finally opened, very discreetly, after the original scheduled launch was delayed for almost three weeks due to intense media attention.

The bar, which receives government funding from the health bureau in the south-western province of Yunnan, was originally due to open on 1 December to mark World Aids Day, but Zhang Jianbo, the owner, delayed it to protect the privacy of the volunteers and customers after a media scrum.

The opening, attended by more than 60 people, was a cause for celebration for health workers determined to improve outreach to a large gay community increasingly at risk from Aids, and is a sign of China's increasingly comfortable relationship with homosexuality, which has long been taboo.

"Their arrival gave me great support. Some of them came from outside Dali specially for the opening," Mr Zhang told the Xinhua news agency. Mr Zhang is a doctor at a local hospital and founder of the Dali HIV/Aids prevention and health association, the organisation behind the initiative.

Homosexuality was considered a mental illness in China until 2001. But China's cities have many gay bars and nightclubs which operate without interference from the authorities. Gay men and women face powerful pressure, because of social taboos, and also because China's one-child policy makes parents require their only child to marry and have grandchildren. They often marry and have a child, but live active homosexual lives in secret.

A UN report released last month showed a sharp rise in the spread of HIV/Aids among gay men. Figures show that as of the end of October, the number of Chinese confirmed to be living with HIV/Aids was 319,877, up from 135,630 in 2005. But the health ministry believes that the actual level of infection was probably nearer 740,000.

Yunnan province is home to nearly a quarter of China's reported HIV and Aids cases. Some 40 per cent of new HIV infections diagnosed were acquired through heterosexual contact, with gay sex accounting for 32 per cent.

Whatever its benefits in terms of health awareness, the bar has another plus: value. The charge at the bar for a bottle of Coca Cola is five yuan, or around 45p, and tea and some snacks are free, according to Mr Zhang.

"The charges are just for what we need to run the bar, and we are not aiming for profits. Customers need not worry about that," he said.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
football This was Kane’s night, even if he played just a small part of it
Travel
travel Dreamland Margate, Britain’s oldest amusement park, is set to reopen
News
news
News
Founders James Brown and Tim Southwell with a mock-up of the first ever ‘Loaded’ magazine in 1994
media
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Threlfall says: 'I am a guardian of the reality keys. I think I drive directors nuts'
people
Voices
voices The group has just unveiled a billion dollar plan to help nurse the British countryside back to health
News
The Westgate, a gay pub in the centre of Gloucester which played host to drag queens, has closed
news
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Does earning a 6 figu...

Recruitment Genius: SEO Executive

£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: New Lift Sales Executive - Lift and Elevators

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A challenging opportunity for a...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss