China will set policies aimed at stopping the spread of AIDS among gay men as the country seeks to stem growing numbers of HIV infections contracted through sex, state media reported.
The Chinese Ministry of Health announced it would "formulate policies concerning AIDS prevention and treatment among men who have sex with men," as part of disease prevention work in 2008, the Xinhua news agency reported on Thursday.
The Ministry's announcement on its Web site (www.moh.gov.cn) did not give any details of the policies, but a prevention plan aimed at gay men would be a shift in a country where officials typically avoid openly addressing sexual issues, especially homosexuality.
By the end of 2007, China had about 700,000 citizens with HIV/AIDS, up from an earlier estimate of 650,000, according to official calculations. A growing proportion of infections is through unprotected sex -- both gay and heterosexual.
About 41 percent of the country's HIV/AIDS infections were through heterosexual sex and 11 percent through sex between men, Xinhua said. Other infections have occurred through drug users' tainted syringes and, especially in earlier years, by farmers selling blood in unsafe commercial blood stations.
The Ministry also said AIDS prevention work this year would include promoting wider use of condoms.
Late last year China rolled out its first major television campaign to promote condom use to fight the spread of HIV/AIDS.
(Reporting by Chris Buckley; Editing by Ken Wills)