China’s Ministry of Health is set to implement its first ever national programme to curb the spread of HIV/AIDS among gay men, its 2008 work agenda revealed yesterday.

The programme marks a subtle new phase in the one-party-state’s attitudes towards homosexuality, which – while not overtly discriminatory – have followed the ‘Three nos’ criteria since sodomy was decriminalised in 1997: No approval, no disapproval and no promotion.

Wang Weizhen, deputy director of the government’s HIV/AIDS prevention department, told China Daily: “By learning more about gay people, we can better protect them against this incurable disease.

“Studies are under way in several cities to collect information on gay men, such as their distribution and behavioural patterns,” he continued.

The department is set to announce special funding, technical support and information sharing in its push to rein in the level of HIV transmission.

The situation among China’s gay community is worsening at a troubling pace. Gay sex accounted for just 0.4 percent of new infections in 2005, but that figure had risen to 3.3 percent by 2007.

Of the 700,000 Chinese people living with HIV or AIDS, 11 percent contracted the virus through gay sex, according to Ministry of Health figures..

While homosexuality is still officially classified as a “mouldering life style of capitalism” in the officially communist state, there are no laws against gay sex or lifestyles. Neither are there any laws protecting Chinese gays from discrimination, however.