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China to lift condom ad ban

Chinese authorities are only just beginning to acknowledge the scale of the crisis
Chinese authorities are only just beginning to acknowledge the scale of the crisis

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CNN's Jaime FlorCruz says the Chinese government slowly is coming to grips with a growing HIV infection rate. (December 1)
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BEIJING, China -- Alarmed at the prospect of an explosion of HIV/AIDS cases, authorities in China are planning to lift a long-standing ban on condom advertisements, state media has reported.

According to the English-language China Daily newspaper, the ban will be removed early next year as part of an effort to promote safe sex and encourage users to select the right kind of condom for their needs.

The restriction was initially imposed in 1989 by the State Administration of Industry and Commerce as part of a ban outlawing advertisements for any product related to sexual activity.

The China Daily report came a day after China marked World AIDS Day with the most public acknowledgement to date of the scale of the challenge facing the country.

In a series of events Sunday senior officials warned that without immediate action some 10 million Chinese could be infected with the HIV virus by the end of the decade, up from an estimated 1 million carriers today.

However, that figure is still well below estimates from the United Nations, which has put the number of HIV carriers at closer to 1.5 million.

Delayed reaction

U.N. health officials have repeatedly criticized China for failing to do enough to acknowledge the threat posed by the deadly disease.

The move to lift the ad ban has been welcomed by health care workers although they said the decision was well overdue.

"The ban should have been lifted a long time ago because condoms are the most effective tools for not only avoiding pregnancy, but also protecting people and their partners from sexually transmitted disease," An Bohua, a state family planning official, told the newspaper.

According to the China Daily, experts believe that by allowing advertising consumers will be able to distinguish the higher quality brands of condoms offering better protection.

Last year, the paper said, China's 300 or so condom manufacturers churned out an estimated 2.4 billion condoms.

However, in a market survey taken in 2000 50 of those tested were found to be defective.

Experts say that while AIDS awareness is improving in the big cities such as Beijing and Shanghai, low levels of education in rural China -- where there is little or no understanding of HIV transmission -- is contributing to a surge of cases.

Although unprotected sex remains the main method transmission, many of those infected in rural areas caught the virus from blood transfusions or by selling their blood in an effort to alleviate growing poverty.



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