Thursday December 6, 2001

Hong Kong AIDS Group Makes Video on HIV Dangers

By Chee-may Chow


HONG KONG (Reuters) - A Hong Kong AIDS awareness group has launched the most candid publicity campaign yet in the territory--an explicit video about the dangers of having sex with prostitutes across the border in mainland China.

The film's graphic language and scenes were a deliberate attempt to grab the attention of a specific audience--truckers who commute daily between Hong Kong and the neighboring southern Chinese boomtown of Shenzhen, a spokesman for AIDS Concern told Reuters on Thursday.

There has been growing concern in Hong Kong that the increasing number of local men who visit prostitutes in China might drive up the number of HIV and AIDS infections in the territory.

"The people we are trying to reach are sexually active male adults. We went round to the truck drivers first and asked them what kind of film do you most like watching and they said porn,'' AIDS Concern Chief Executive Graham Smith said.

In the film, fictional trucker Wan Po makes no secret of his frequent visits to brothels in China or having unprotected sex with prostitutes.

"It's meaningless to do it with a plastic bag! I might as well be masturbating,'' he boasts to his friends.

The 10-minute video, which will be shown weekly at the waiting area of the territory's main cargo terminal, warns of the risks involved in promiscuous behavior and includes animated instructions on how to use condoms.

"We wanted to make sure people watched our video and not feel they are being lectured to and that they can identify with the characters in it,'' Smith said.

The number of AIDS cases in Hong Kong is still relatively low compared with many other countries in Asia. However, a recent study showed one in two cross-border lorry drivers have had sex with Chinese prostitutes.

There have been 524 confirmed AIDS cases and 1,636 HIV infections reported in the territory of nearly 7 million people since 1985, when the government first set up a surveillance program to monitor the disease.

Fifty people tested positive for HIV and another 15 were confirmed to have developed AIDS in the second quarter of this year.

China recently made a rare admission of the scale of its AIDS threat, saying that reported HIV infections had surged 67.4% to 3,541 in the first half of 2001 compared with the same period last year.

China puts the number of confirmed HIV/AIDS cases at 28,133 but some experts say the real figure could be well over 600,000.

The United Nations has said China could have 10 million people with HIV/AIDS by 2010 unless it acts decisively.