As the rates of HIV rise amongst students in China – especially gay men – a local HIV organization has come up with a novel way to get more people tested.
Five college campuses across China have hosted a pilot of selling HIV tests in vending machines. They cost about $4 and people drop the test back into the machine after they have taken it. They can then find out their results online about a fortnight later.
The hope is that more students and people under the age of 30 will get tested for HIV. The rate of HIV among younger Chinese people is higher than any other age.
The National Center for AIDS/STD Control and Prevention (NCAIDS) is overseeing the pilot program.
Stigma and discrimination
Many young people are often too afraid to go into clinics for the fear of stigma or discrimination. While it homosexuality is decriminalised in China both LGBTI topics and HIV are still very taboo.
People living with HIV (PLHIV) in China have reported being turned away from medical services because of their status according to NPR.
‘The most common psychological barriers given for not having HIV testing were perceived low risk of HIV infection and fears of being stigmatized for homosexuality,’ HIV/AIDS researchers wrote in a paper on testing among men who have sex with men and who were migrants to Beijing from other parts of China.
Less than 10 of the self-testing kits have been bought at one of the college campuses since last year, putting into doubt whether the vending machines will become permanent fixtures across all Chinese universities.
‘I think these kinds of method will yield some results but to what extent is still unclear. Right now, these vending machine test kits are not a significant channel for testing,’ Liu Shi, program manager of the China AIDS Walk told NPR.
HIV is a sensitive topic in China, earlier this year Apple was forced to drop the special edition (PRODUCT)RED iPhone 7. Proceeds of (PRODUCT)RED product sales go to the company’s HIV/AIDS charity.