A three-day forum in Hong Kong on a growing HIV/AIDS epidemic in Asia ended Friday with delegates calling for countries in the region to follow China's lead in decriminalizing homosexuality.
Beijing's decision in 2001 had helped to minimise the spread of HIV/AIDS in China, Zhen Li, from the Tong Zhi awareness group, told the forum.
"Between 2005 and 2008 China made huge progress (in raising awareness of HIV/AIDS among homosexuals) in addition to working with civil society as partners," Li said.
However, elsewhere in Asia "highly prohibitive legal frameworks" against homosexuality were aiding the spread of an HIV epidemic among homosexual men, the forum's organisers said in a statement.
"As long as these laws are in effect it will push people into dark places," Li told a news conference at the end of the forum.
Edmund Settle, from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), said there were several Asian countries which had yet to follow China's example and that they tended to be former British colonies.
As an example, he cited India, where there is currently a court case challenging the laws banning homosexuality.
Wong Ka-Hing, a consultant in special preventive programmes for Hong Kong's Department of Health, said that the city's HIV/AIDS awareness campaigns would continue to prioritise young homosexuals.
"In Hong Kong we are facing a rising epidemic among men having sex with men... that is why we have tried to target scarce resources towards the most vulnerable sections of the community," Wong said.
The forum was jointly held by Hong Kong's Department of Health, the World Health Organization, the UNDP and the Joint UN Programmes on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).
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