World Aids Day 2014: Gay dating app helps spread AIDS awareness in China

The app was founded by an LGBT advocate who was once a policeman

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The Independent Online

A gay dating app in China has received a $30m investment as it becomes increasingly popular among the homosexual community, with 15 million users to date.

In a country where homosexuality has been a taboo subject and authorities often restrict lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans-gender (LGBT) groups, the Blued dating app has become hugely popularity without any restrictions.

In fact, some Chinese officials welcome the app because it is proving a useful tool in spreading information about AIDS prevention.

Besides from being primarily used for dating, Blued allows group conversations, thus helping people to organise activities such as getting a basketball team together.

Chen Zihuang, a campaigner at Danlan.org Public Welfare Department, told the Associated Press, "I am a person that likes to do sports. So for example, I would use Blued to look for users who like to play basketball.

"If I join existing groups with straight people, there might be things that are awkward for us to discuss or cannot be spoken about directly and I have to lie about my sexual preference. But if all of the people in this group are gay, I feel free and comfortable."

Furthermore, the app includes games and videos that educate users about risky sexual practices as well as providing treatment information and where they can go to get tested for HIV.

Catherine Sozi, the director of UNAIDS China, said, "There is an increasing epidemic among men who have sex with men, gay or otherwise, and so is important to support innovation in how people reach their people."

The World Health Organisation believes there are 800,000 people living with HIV in China.

The man behind Blued is Geng Lee, although his real name is Ma Baoli.

 

While he was the youngest deputy director of the Public Security Bureau of Qinhuangdao, he ran a website called danlan.org under the name Geng Lee, and he shared articles about homosexuality and coming-out stories.

His colleagues eventually found out, and because he was getting revenue from advertisements on his website (policeman aren't allowed to have a business on the side), he was told to choose between his job or his online career.

He chose the latter and moved to Beijing. Blued started in December 2012.

Lee told the AP: "I would like to use the power of the economy for promoting the LGBT community. For example, in many ways, the economy can trigger changes in policies.

"So if, for example, I do this thing very well, if my users go from 15 million to many more in the future, if we can go public, I can tell the government: see, we can go public being a 'gay company' and we haven't caused you any trouble."

Blued received its $30m funding from DCM, a venture capital firm based in Silicon Valley.

Additional reporting by the AP.

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