In a belated response to the spread of the HIV/AIDS virus in the general population, China has ordered all hotels, holiday resorts and public showers to provide condoms.

It is part of nationwide efforts to fight the spread of AIDS, according to recent reports.

The regulation, issued by the commerce and health ministries, also required pamphlets about AIDS prevention to be displayed, the Beijing News reports.

The move follows an unusual step by the booming eastern province of Zhejiang in March to fine hotels and bars if they did not provide condoms.

China originally stigmatised AIDS as a disease specific to gays, sex workers and drug users found in capitalistic Western countries.

Traditionally, none of these groups officially existed in communist China.

Elsewhere another new chapter in the slow opening up of China started this month with the opening of a new social support centre for the gay community in Hong Kong.

The opening of the centre follows another positive move by the highest court in Hong Kong, which showed uncharacteristic leniency in a case involving gay public sodomy.

The verdict has been hailed by many as a victory for China’s gay rights movement.

Duane Wells

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