More Taiwanese than ever are contracting HIV through sex, although the overall number of new cases of HIV decreased last year, a Center for Disease Control (CDC) official said yesterday.
In a campaign to decrease the number of infections through sexual intercourse, the CDC is fighting conservative criticism that it is promoting sexual promiscuity by pushing for greater availability of condoms everywhere from high schools to "betelnut beauty" booths.
"Thanks to our needle-exchange program, we've made a lot of progress among intravenous drug users, but we have not had as much success with unsafe sex," said Yang Shih-yan (
The CDC will push the envelop to make condoms more easily available, despite the controversy of promoting their use.
"There are already condom vending machines at universities," he said. "But by then it might already be too late."
The CDC is negotiating with the Ministry of Education, which favors a more conservative approach to sex education, Yang said.
"Of course abstinence and monogamous relationships are ideals to be promoted," he said. "But we need condoms to be widely available as a final defense for our youths against a deadly disease."
A Department of Health survey showed that up to 70 percent of Taiwanese lose their virginity between the age of 15 and 24 and that only 30 percent of those having sex for the first time used condoms.
"It is not unusual to find HIV positive rates as high as 80 or 90 percent at private sex parties. The incidence of `subsidized friendship' -- a form of prostitution -- among our youths is also worrying," Yang said. "Given this reality, we have to take various approaches."
The CDC already distributes condoms at locations where the risk of contracting HIV through sex is deemed to be high, such as at saunas and motels. It also distributes condoms to sex workers. Yang said that "betelnut beauty"booths might be next.
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