Today is opening day for a government-funded "gay bar" in Dali whose stated goal is to create a "common room for partner education" for the local gay community in one of the areas of China with the highest HIV/AIDS infection rates.
The 120,000 yuan (US$17,576) bar, located in Dali's old town, is managed by the NGO The Good Friend Center, according to a Global Times story.
Reaction across the Chinese Internet has ranged from praise to condemnation, to suspicion that the local government did the project to attract funds from international NGOs. Some commentators have said that the high-profile location is bound to doom the project due to the lingering stigma attached to homosexuality in China.
For the last three years, the main meeting area for homosexual men in the area had been in a wooded area just outside Dali's city wall, Kunming Information Hub reports.
On November 24, Chinese Health Minister Chen Zhu said that homosexual sex accounted for 32 percent of the HIV/AIDS infections in China, adding that that proportion was likely to grow.
Government estimates put the current number of HIV/AIDS infections in China at about 650,000, while some epidemiologists say the number is more likely around 1.5 million. The Dali Health Bureau estimates there are 1,500 to 2,000 HIV-positive gay men in Dali.
The Bureau said the new bar it has funded will employ gay volunteers to attract customers.
Zhang Jianbo (张建波), the non-gay manager of the "bar", said that the bar was going to be less about the drinks and more about education and prevention.
"We might not even sell beverages in the bar. We will turn the bar into a tribune to offer lectures and training to gay people in order to reduce AIDS infections among them," he told the Beijing News.
Official data states that Yunnan province is home to more HIV/AIDS infections than any other administrative region in China. In addition to gay sex, unprotected sex among heterosexuals – especially involving prosititution – and intravenous drug use are major contributors to the number of transmissions each year.
Last year, a Tsinghua University study focused on the spread of HIV in Yunnan announced that in general intravenous drug users were being surpassed by women and gay men as the fastest growing HIV-positive gender demographics.
The Tsinghua report added that the virus' transmission rate among ethnic Han Chinese was quickening its pace, whereas in previous years it had been predominantly concentrated in ethnic minority populations.
Update I: Chinese news site ccvic.com is reporting that the Dali gay bar has already been closed down by local officials.
Update II: Zhang has been quoted in the People's Daily as saying the bar's opening was delayed due to public pressure.
"The bar will open, but maybe later. We are under a lot of pressure now and should eliminate the negative effect first. The other reason about the bar's delay is the over exposure of the bar which makes gay people afraid to come in," he said.© Copyright 2005-2021 GoKunming.com all rights reserved. This material may not be republished, rewritten or redistributed without permission.