In the heat of summer, condoms are made cool

Chinese Youth Mark Chinese Valentine's Day with Safe Sex Campaign

05 September 2018
On Aug 7, at an event to promote sexual and reproductive health among adolescents supported by the China Center for Health Education and UNICEF China,  two college students from Nanjing explains how to use a female condom during a role play session.
UNICEF/China/2016/Xia Yong
On Aug 7, at an event to promote sexual and reproductive health among adolescents supported by the China Center for Health Education and UNICEF China, two college students from Nanjing explains how to use a female condom during a role play session.

Beijing, 8 August 2016 – Two days ahead of the Qixi Festival, or Chinese Valentine's day, a network of Chinese youth are calling for young people to make using condoms “cool” to protect themselves against HIV and other STIs.

Adolescents face a multitude of challenges in sexual and reproductive health, including sexual exploitation and abuse, unprotected sex and the subsequent STIs, unplanned pregnancies and unsafe abortions, all of which pose a threat to their rights to survival, development and protection.

As part of the All In Campaign– a global call to action to end adolescent AIDS, youth representatives from across the country have spent the last month conducting safe sex and HIV prevention activities.

“Originally we had imagined a lot of resistance from young children against sexual reproductive health content,” said Xie Zhuoyan, a philosophy student and teaching volunteer at Fudan University.  “But in reality, we found that the kids are very, very open to sexual and reproductive health knowledge, and even to the concept of gender, of HIV.  In this process, we fully realized that all the resistance is, after all, socially constructed.  Looking back at the adult discomfort with basic sexuality knowledge around us, the contrast is just amazing.”

Using a mix of online and off-line activities, the youth led alliance has sought to engage youngsters to learn about, talk about, and practice safe sex.  These efforts were supported by an online survey through WeChat called “less tricks, more condoms” that tests young people's knowledge, attitude and behaviour towards safe sex and HIV.

The findings of this survey were shared at an event in Beijing sponsored by the China Center for Health Education and UNICEF China, which was attend by UN agencies, public and private partners and community organizations. Partners included the “Unite for Children Unite against AIDS” Youth Ambassadors Network, the Marie Stopes You & Me Partners, Beijing Red Cross Youth Core Group for AIDS Prevention, the Nanjing You & Me Youth Club, the Guangdong Lingnan Young Partners and Zhengzhou Heqin Youth Volunteer Center, along with other youth networks and community organizations across China.

“The Government of China recognises if we are to face the challenge of rising number of HIV cases among young students, we need young people themselves play an important role in the response. Preventing HIV among adolescents should start from comprehensive sexuality education – from elementary school to university. Only when people are equipped with sexual and reproductive health knowledge in adolescence can they make the right decisions when confronting potential sexual risks.” said Dr. Wang Lu from National AIDS Center of China CDC.

To reach young people in remote rural areas, university student volunteers added to their summer teaching a sexuality education lesson, developed by Marie Stopes International China based on International Technical Guidance on Sexuality Education using non-intimidating and lively cartoons.  Since July, they have reached more than 25,000 adolescents in remote rural areas.

To further spread the word, young people also promoted awareness on safe sex and building self-protection skills among their peers in their communities, in their own fun and engaging ways. 

“Evidence is clear.  Ignorance, fear and peer pressure can lead to high risk behavior amongst adolescents and young people.  We also know that by empowering them with knowledge, skills and the confidence to negotiate safe sex, we can protect them from HIV, STIs and unwanted pregnancies,” Shantha Bloemen, UNICEF China Chief of Communication and Partnership, remarked at the event.  “We also know the best people to spread the word and empower them are their own peers. This partnership, which brings together a wide network of youth organizations and agencies, illustrates how together we can act to fight HIV and protect our young people.”

According to Adolescents - Under the Radar in the Asia-Pacific AIDS Response, a 2015 report by UNICEF, over 50,000 adolescents aged 15 to 19 have been newly infected with HIV in 2014, accounting for 15% of all new infections in the region.  During the past five years, China has witnessed rising HIV infections amongst young people, as shown by a 35% annual increase in new infections among students aged 15-24.

The Sustainable Development Goals and the UN targets to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030 require that 90 per cent of all people living with HIV to know their status, 90 per cent of people with diagnosed HIV receive antiretroviral therapy and 90 percent of all people on HIV treatment achieve viral suppression.

At the global launch, Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of UNAIDS acknowledged how important young people are to meeting these targets.  He said “I am calling on young people to lead the All In movement, alongside the United Nations, public and private partners, and countries themselves, to end the adolescent AIDS epidemic.”


ABOUT ALL IN

To ensure the global target of ending AIDS by 2030 is achieved, adolescents must be front and center in the global AIDS response.  In 2014, UNICEF and UNAIDS joined force with international society and governments and launched All In – a global action to end adolescent AIDS, forming broad alliances to advocate for increased financial, technical and service investment in adolescents, to reduce the multiple risks and vulnerabilities they are facing, so as to reduce new infections and AIDS related deaths among adolescents. 

Media contacts

Shantha Bloemen
UNICEF China
Tel: +86-10-85312610
Liu Li
Communication Specialist
UNICEF China
Tel: +86-10-85312612

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