The fight against HIV in Asia could be greatly assisted if countries moved to legalise homosexuality, according to a leading Chinese AIDS activist.

Zhen Li of the Tong Zhi awareness group was speaking at a three-day forum hosted by Hong Kong’s Department of Health, the World Health Organisation, the UNDP and the Joint UN Programmes on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).

“Between 2005 and 2008 China made huge progress in addition to working with civil society as partners,” Li said.

In 2001 homosexual acts were decriminalised, allowing HIV prevention workers to work more openly with men who have sex with men.

Asia’s second most populous country, India, is considering decriminalisation.

“As long as these laws are in effect it will push people into dark places,” Li said.

In China, the risk of infection by men who have sex with men is 45 times higher than for men in general.

Asia is believed to have the world’s largest number of men having sex with men, estimated at 10 million.

A recent UNAIDS report showed that targeted prevention interventions are reaching only 1% of the MSM population.
The report also showed that in most countries in Asia and the Pacific, national strategic plans for HIV/AIDS do not cover interventions for MSM and transgender individuals.