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China Discusses Medical Secrecy After Woman Infects Unaware Husband with HIV

The story of a young man being infected with HIV because he was unaware that his wife was HIV positive has made the headlines in China. Netizens discuss an ethical dilemma: should patient confidentiality override the safety of the partner?

Manya Koetse

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The story of a young man being infected with HIV because he was unaware that his wife was HIV positive has made the headlines in China. Netizens discuss an ethical dilemma: should patient confidentiality override the safety of the partner?

The news that Xiaoxin has HIV came as a bolt out of the blue. The young man from Henan Province is in the prime of his life and just got married. He was completely oblivious to the fact that his wife had been diagnosed with HIV. Now it is too late to take extra measures.

Xiaoxin’s case has become trending on Sina Weibo, where netizens are discussing an ethical dilemma: should the doctors have told Xiaoxin of his wife’s condition, or was it right for them to maintain professional secrecy?

 

“I lost all hope. I felt like my world was crumbling. I am still so young, what am I going to do?”

 

As reported by Legal Evening News (法制晚报), the young man Xiaoxin from Yongcheng, Henan Province, told his story on City TV this week.

In March of 2015, Xiaoxin was preparing to get married with his fiancee Xiaoxie. In order to get their marriage registration, they needed to do pre-marital health check-ups at the local hospital. The results of the check-ups came out quickly, Xiaoxin says, and although Xiaoxie was called into the doctor’s office for some time, the doctor later told him that everything was normal.

Three months later, when the couple was already married and living together, Xiaoxin, who was on a business trip, got the news from Xiaoxie that she had received a phone call from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) telling her that a confirmatory test came out positive for HIV and that he might have contracted it too – which later out turned out to be the case. Xiaoxin told City TV: “At that time I lost all hope. I felt like my world was crumbling. I am still so young, what am I going to do?”

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Xiaoxin tells City TV: “At that time I lost all hope. I felt like my world was crumbling. I am still so young, what am I going to do?”
According to the CDC, Mrs. Xiaoxie had since long known she had HIV; they have her records on file to prove it. The rapid pre-marital tests in March had also indicated that she was “likely to be HIV positive”. Xiaoxin’s name was written on top of the results cart, but he claims he never even saw those papers. His wife also claims that she did not know, and that she does not know why the hospital was not more clear to her when the results had come through in March. The question remains: who was hiding the truth, Xiaoxie or the CDC?

Xiaoxin is now suing the hospital for not disclosing the results of the pre-marital tests with him.

 

“What is more important, Xiaoxie’s right to medical secrecy, or Xiaoxin’s right to decide over his own life and health?”

 

Chinese media and netizens debate what is more important, Xiaoxie’s right to medical secrecy, or Xiaoxin’s right to decide over his own life and health?

According to experts, if Xiaoxie knew she had contracted HIV, she should have told her (future) husband herself. Medical staff and the CDC have professional confidentiality and are not allowed to inform others about her condition. Some experts and lawyers believe that this confidentiality, however, should not apply to those who live together with the patient and who can easily be infected, especially when it concerns their legal spouse.

Yunnan, Guangxi, and other provinces have already proposed a new law that gives local disease control departments the right to inform spouses or partners of AIDS or HIV patients of their condition, if the patient does not take the initiative to inform people themselves, Legal Evening News writes.

 

“Why don’t you attack the woman who concealed this?”

 

HIV/AIDS is a major problem in China. The most common form of HIV infection is through heterosexual transmission (46.5% in 2011), followed by injection drug use (28.4%) (Saag 2014, 329). According to HIV specialist Nitin Saksena, the number of young, predominantly gay men getting infected has also been growing at an alarming rate in 2015. Faltering sex education and unawareness about HIV are contributing factors to China’s HIV epidemic. Those living with HIV face serious social stigmas (also read our story on the 8-year-old with HIV who was banned from his village).

“This story neglects one thing,” a Weibo netizen comments on the case of Xiaoxin: “Which is that doctors are required to maintain the patient’s medical confidentiality. So shouldn’t the woman who concealed her condition be the one you attack? The law states that doctors need to protect their patient’s privacy, and it’s not like you cannot get married when you have AIDS. So before you start blaming doctors, you should first look at the whole picture.”

Sharing one’s HIV status is a personal choice, but in some countries it may also be a legal requirement. Some states in the US have laws that stipulate that HIV patients have to tell specific people about their diagnosis. In Australia, a man who was accused of inflicting HIV on another man appeared in court this month. He was charged with “recklessly inflicting grievous bodily harm”. In The Netherlands, three men were sentenced to prison (one of them for 12 years) in 2005 for deliberately infecting other men with HIV during private sex parties.

For doctors, keeping patients’ HIV status a secret from their (bed) partners is a medical duty, but sometimes also becomes a moral dilemma (also read: Should Doctors Keep Patients’ HIV Status a Secret?)

 

“If you don’t let him know, then what is the whole purpose of the pre-marital check-up?”

 

Weibo user Qiu Haihai says: “This belongs to the realm of personal privacy. The hospital has no obligation to tell others. If the man would break up with the woman because of it, and she commits suicide afterwards, her family would hold the hospital responsible.”

Another netizen remarks that the pre-marital health check-up is not an ordinary health check-up, but that it is a confirmation that both sides are healthy before they get married: “If you don’t let him know [about her HIV status], then what is the whole purpose of the pre-marital checkup?”

“The doctor did not just conceal information,” one person says: “He deceived him by saying everything was normal.”

“What a poor guy,” another commenter writes: “You might as well stay together and live in peace now. Take it easy, get medical treatment. Medical science is improving all the time. Maybe a miracle will happen. May Buddha bless you and lead you out of the shadows towards a healthy future.”

By Manya Koetse

References (if not stated here then they are linked through in-text)

Saag, Michael S. 2014. Updates in HIV and AIDS: Part I, An Issue of Infectious Disease Clinics. Birmingham: Elsevier.

©2016 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Manya Koetse is the editor-in-chief of www.whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer and consultant (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends in China, with a focus on social media and digital developments, popular culture, and gender issues. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Avatar

    Nadia

    February 15, 2016 at 8:27 am

    May Jesus Christ have mercy on Xiaoxin for not knowing about his wifes HIV status.

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China Health & Science

‘Two Sessions’ Proposed Ban on Single Women Freezing Their Eggs

Weibo talks egg freezing.

Manya Koetse

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It was the number one trending topic of the day on Weibo earlier this week: the proposal to make it illegal for hospitals and clinics in China to provide the service of freezing eggs to unmarried women.

Chinese physician Sun Wei (孙伟), National People’s Congress delegate, is the person to raise the issue of no longer allowing medical facilities in China to freeze eggs. She is the director of the Reproductive Medicine Unit at the No.2 Affiliated Hospital of Shandong University of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Sun Wei submitted the proposal during the Two Sessions (lianghui), China’s largest annual legislative meetings, in order to encourage Chinese citizens to “marry and reproduce at the appropriate age.” Sun also mentions potential health risks as a reason to ban egg freezing services.

On Weibo, one news post reporting on the issue received nearly 835,000 likes. The hashtag “Proposal to Prohibit Single Women From Freezing Their Eggs” (#建议禁止单身女性冷冻卵子#) received over 710 million views.

Sun Wei (image by Vista看天下).

The proposal goes against the proposition of a National Committee member during the lianghui, that of Peng Jing (彭静), that supports single women’s rights in freezing their eggs.

It also comes after the 31-year-old Teresa Xu (Xu Zaozao) filed a lawsuit against a Beijing medical facility in December of 2019 for refusing her the treatment of freezing her eggs, arguing it was effectively discriminating against single women. In doing so, Xu challenged China’s regulations on human assisted reproduction, which bar single women from getting the procedure.

Artificial insemination itself is not illegal in China when it is done by a married couple; it is only against the law when done by those who are not lawfully married.

It is not the first time the discussion on egg freezing erupts on Chinese social media. In 2015, Chinese actress and director Xu Jinglei (徐静蕾) stated in an interview that she had nine eggs frozen in the United States at the age of 39, calling them her “back-up plan.”

Xu’s statement made artificial insemination an issue of public interest, especially because unmarried women in China cannot carry out this procedure.

Although single women in China technically could have their eggs frozen – if they have the financial capacity to do so – they would not be able to have them inseminated unless they provide three certificates: their identification card, their marriage certificate, and their ‘zhunshengzheng‘ (准生证 ) – the ‘Permission to give Birth’, which would not be issued without the marriage certificate. In short: single women would not be able to have a baby through artificial insemination, because they would not be able to get the required legal papers to go through with the procedure.

At the time of the 2015 discussion, the famous Chinese blogger and writer Han Han (韩寒) shared his thoughts on the issue: “Why can’t women decide for themselves whether or not they want to have children? And what if an unmarried woman does get pregnant, and they don’t get a ‘Permission to give Birth’? Then the child cannot even get a residence registration.”

“Why should having a baby be bound together with marriage? Even I, a simple straight guy, cannot see the logic in this,” Han Han wrote.

In the discussions that are going around Chinese social media this week, there are many netizens that take a similar stance as Han Han did, arguing that single women should have the right to freeze their eggs, and wondering why they would not be allowed to do so in the first place.

Various Weibo commenters write that individuals should have the right to make their own decisions about whether or not they would like to have children. One Weibo thread where people are asked about their opinion on the matter, the majority of the 16,000+ responses say they support single women being able to freeze their eggs.

“[I] support [it], [I] support [it], [I] support [it], [I] support [it], [I] support [it]…” – this Weibo user clearly thinks single women should be able to decide for themselves whether or not they would like to freeze their eggs.

However, there are also some web users opposing this idea, arguing that it is “not morally right” and does not provide a “normal family environment” to children.

Whether Sun Wei’s proposal will lead to actual changes in the law is yet to be seen, although it would virtually not alter the current situation regarding egg freezing in China. It already is virtually impossible for unmarried women to freeze their eggs as a “back up plan” and it would just make the impossible even more impossible.

By Manya Koetse
With contributions from Jialing Xie

Featured image Photo by 东旭王

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2020 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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China Health & Science

Schools in China Are Reopening, But Will Lunch Breaks Ever Be the Same Again?

Chinese students are back to school, but school life is not back to normal.

Manya Koetse

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As most schools across China are opening their doors again, social media users are sharing photos of what school life looks like in the post-COVID-19 outbreak era this week.

Some videos and images that are circulating on Weibo and Wechat show somewhat dystopian images of the post-COVID-19 school life at primary and (senior) high schools – students eating while standing outside in straight lines, or pupils wearing face masks taking turns to eat their lunch (supposedly to reduce the chances of contagion via respiratory droplets, see tweeted video below).

Most schools in China have already started or will open later this month. Only Hubei province and Beijing have not yet announced school reopening plans, Caixin reports.

But although China is gradually back to business after its weeks-long coronavirus lockdown, daily life is far from normal as the country remains on high alert for a possible second wave of COVID-19 infections.

Schools are therefore also taking strict precautions to reduce infection risks both in and outside of the classroom.

Lunch break policy and procedures are just one of the many things that have changed at Chinese schools now.

On Weibo, ‘Henan Education’ is one of many accounts posting about the dramatically different way of eating at China’s school canteens in these post-COVID-19-outbreak times.

In Xingyang city, for example, special supervisors have been allocated to high schools to maintain the order and reduce the number of students gathering at the school entrances and assist students with lunch break seatings at the canteen.

Canteen at Xingyang’s Second Senior High School

At a senior high school in Kaifeng, all students have their lunch breaks in the canteen at one side of the table only, leaving enough space in between the other students.

Other schools have set up their canteens like examination rooms, only allowing one student per table, only facing one direction.

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One Weibo user posts how her Tianjin school is preparing for the lunch break arrangements, with indicators on the floor marking the direction students should walk in and the distance they have to keep from each other.

One other school in Jiangsu’s Huai’an has put dividers on all lunch tables to separate students while having their lunch break.

“It feels like taking exams,” some commenters write about the new lunch break policies. “We can no longer look around and whisper in each other’s ear.”

One school board in the city of Beihai has decided to make use of its new separating screens to stimulate more studying during lunch breaks; they have printed study material for the upcoming ‘gaokao‘ exams on the dividers.

Some netizens think that other schools will follow this example if it appears to be effective. In that way, the post-COVID-19 lunch break will turn into just another study opportunity.

For more COVID-19 related articles, please click here.

By Manya Koetse (@manyapan)
With contributions from Miranda Barnes
Follow @whatsonweibo

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2020 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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