Hong Kong - A gay film festival has received government backing for the first time in Hong Kong as part of a push to raise awareness of AIDS in the territory, a health official said Friday.

The Health Department's Red Ribbon Centre has provided 8,000 US dollars in sponsorship to the Gay and Lesbian Film and Video Festival, which is to be held over two weeks beginning November 2.

It has also produced a 30-second advert promoting the use of condoms that will be screened before each film, published AIDS-awareness articles in the festival programme and will distribute condoms to the audience at the 50 films on show during the festival.

The move is part of a push to increase awareness of AIDS prevention among the gay community in Hong Kong, which has witnessed a rise in the number of HIV infections among men who have sex with men.

In the first six months of 2006, there were 3,000 cases in this category of HIV infection compared with 2,000 in the whole of last year.

Albert Au, medical officer of the Red Ribbon Centre, which works to promote AIDS awareness, said the statistics showed harder work was needed to get the message across to the gay population.

'In the past, we have only had TV announcements, but they were made for the general public,' Dr Au said. 'We need something to cater to the gay community's needs.'

The Red Ribbon Centre is the official sponsor of the showcase screening of the Spanish film 'Bear Club,' directed by Miguel Albaladejo, which follows the story of an HIV-infected gay man.
Source: MonsterandCritics