Recent trends in condom use are riding on changing Chinese attitudes toward sex, Zhang Lei and Wu Wencong report from Beijing.
On World AIDS Day last year, the Shaanxi Provincial Communist Youth League organised volunteer activities to help raise awareness and prevention of the disease.
The tradition on Dec 1 across the world included giving out free condoms to passers-by in Xi'an, capital of Shaanxi province.
But three boxes of condoms out of the six that volunteers checked out were returned shortly.
A volunteer from Xi'an's Northwest University said people were still embarrassed when she approached them with the condoms.
During the half-day campaign, eight volunteers distributed just 35 boxes of condoms.
It was a similar situation in Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province.
A passer-by rejected the condoms from a volunteer, and only four out of 10 people accepted the safe-sex brochures and condoms.
Volunteers in both cities said women were much more reluctant to accept the condoms than men were.
One volunteer in Chengdu even reported a woman indignantly rejecting the handouts, saying that she did not have AIDS.
While the scenes in Xi'an and Chengdu seem to reinforce the stereotype of Chinese people's conservative attitudes toward sex, recent developments and trends suggest that they are actually becoming more sexually open.
US-based men's online magazine AskMen last July surprised even the Chinese when it ranked China as the fourth most-sexual country, behind Greece, Brazil and Russia.
The website said that China had won its place due to its sexual revolution, particularly illustrated by the numerous sex shops on its streets.
"In the past eight years, 5,000 sex shops have opened in Beijing alone.