In an effort to prevent HIV/AIDS, schools in China are set to address the topic in the classroom.
China's National Health and Family Planning Commission and the Ministry of Education said that in some areas, cases of HIV/AIDS are increasing more quickly among students than other populations, according to a circular issued.
AdvertisementMiddle and high school students will now be required to attend six and four hours of HIV/AIDS prevention classes respectively, to combat the rise.
"Provinces should combine health education on HIV/AIDS prevention with sex health education ... with focuses on sexual morality and responsibility, prevention and rejecting unsafe sex," the circular reads. It even acknowledges that "health education on preventing HIV/AIDS is insufficient in some schools; students are not fully aware of self-protection."
The circular also said schools should provide information about counseling and HIV testing sites.
According to the World Health Organization, half a million people in China are living with HIV/AIDS and hundreds of thousands more individuals could be undiagnosed.
The move to introduce HIV/AIDS education was due to the fact that younger generation in China is more sexually liberated than its predecessors.
According to a 2011 survey by condom-maker Durex, people in China are losing their virginity at a younger age; the median age is now 21.2, and 60% of Chinese aged 19 to 25 have had sex. Currently, sexual education is not taught in most Chinese schools, and many students first learn about sex through foreign porn films.
Catherine Sozi, China country director for UNAIDS, called the circular a step in the right direction for China. "I'm optimistic. The government realizes where new infections are coming from and that waiting until university for sex education is too late."
The Chinese government circular calls for schools to set up a system of reporting HIV/AIDS cases among students at least once every six months - a move that has sparked concerns about privacy, following similar debates over real-name registration in the past.
Discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS is widespread in China, touching on areas including employment, housing and education.
From January to October 2014, Beijing recorded 2,932 new cases of HIV infections, which is a 21% increase from the same period a year before. More than 100 of those cases were students.
The rise in HIV/AIDS was due to rise in sex between men, said the health planning commission and ministry.
The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention said gay men accounted for 25% of new HIV cases in the first eight months of last year.