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China Health & Science

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?

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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 founder and editor-in-chief of whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer, public speaker, and researcher (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends, digital developments, and new media in an ever-changing China, with a focus on Chinese society, pop culture, and gender issues. She shares her love for hotpot on hotpotambassador.com. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. 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 and Covid19

Fangcang Forever: China’s Temporary Covid19 Makeshift Hospitals To Become Permanent

China’s temporary ‘Fangcang’ shelter hospitals are here to stay.

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A new term has been added to China’s pandemic lexicon today: Permanent Fangcang Hospital. Although China’s ‘Fangcang’ shelter hospitals are, by definition, temporary, these healthcare facilities to isolate and treat Covid patients are now becoming a permanent feature of China’s Zero-Covid approach.

Over the past few days, Chinese authorities have emphasized the need for China’s bigger cities to build or renovate existing makeshift Covid hospitals, and turn them into permanent sites.

So-called ‘Fangcang hospitals’ (方舱医院, square cabin hospitals) are large, temporary makeshift shelter hospitals to isolate and treat Covid-19 patients. Fangcang shelter hospitals were first established in China during the Wuhan outbreak as a countermeasure to stop the spread of the virus.

January 5 2022, a Fangcang or Isolation Point with over 1000 separate isolations rooms is constructed in Baqiao District of Xi’an (Image via Renmin Shijue).

They have since become an important part of China’s management of the pandemic and the country’s Zero-Covid policy as a place to isolate and treat people who have tested positive for Covid-19, both asymptomatic and mild-to-moderate symptomatic cases. In this way, the Fangcang hospitals alleviate the pressure on (designated) hospitals, so that they have more beds for patients with serious or severe symptoms.

On May 5th, Chinese state media reported about an important top leadership meeting regarding China’s Covid-19 situation. In this meeting, the Politburo Standing Committee stressed that China would “unswervingly adhere to the general Zero-Covid policy” and that victory over the virus would come with persistence. At the meeting, chaired by Xi Jinping, the seven-member Politburo Standing Committee also declared that China would fight against any words or acts that “distort, doubt, or deny” the country’s dynamic Zero-Covid policy.

Life inside one of Shanghai’s Fangcang, photo via UDN.com.

Following the meeting, there have been multiple official reports and statements that provide a peek into China’s ‘zero Covid’ future.

On May 13, China’s National Health Commission called on all provinces to build or renovate city-level Fangcang hospitals, and to make sure they are equipped with electricity, ventilation systems, medical appliances, toilets, and washing facilities (Weibo hashtag ##以地级市为单位建设或者改造方舱医院#).

On May 16, the term ‘Permanent Fangcang Hospital’ (Weibo hashtag #永久性方舱医院) became a trending topic on Weibo after Ma Xiaowei (马晓伟), Minister of China’s National Health Commission, introduced the term in Qiushi (求是), the leading official theoretical journal of the Chinese Communist Party.

The term is new and is somewhat contradictory as a concept, since ‘Fangcang hospitals’ are actually defined by their temporary nature.

Ma Xiaowei stressed the need for Chinese bigger cities to be ready for the next stage of China’s Covid control. This also includes the need for some central ‘Fangcang’ makeshift hospitals to become permanent ones.

In order to ‘normalize’ the control and monitoring that comes with living in Zero-Covid society, Chinese provincial capitals and bigger cities (more than ten million inhabitants) should do more to improve Covid testing capacities and procedures. Ma proposes that there should be nucleic acid sample collection points across the city within a 15-minute walking distance radius, and testing frequency should be increased to maximize efficient control and prevention.

Cities should be prepared to take in patients for isolation and/or treatment at designated hospitals, centralized isolation sites, and the permanent Fangcang hospitals. The recent Covid outbreak in Shanghai showed that local authorities were unprepared to deal with the outbreak, and sites that were used as Fangcang hospitals often lacked proper facilities, leading to chaotic scenes.

A Fangcang Isolation Center in Quanzhou, March 2022, via People’s Daily.

The hashtag “Permanent Fangcang Hospitals” received over 140 million views on Weibo on Monday.

One of the Weibo threads by state media reporting on the Permanent Fangcang hospitals and the publication by Ma Xiaowei received nearly 2000 comments, yet the comment section only displayed three comments praising the newly announced measures, leaving out the other 1987 comments.

Elsewhere on Weibo, people shared their views on the Permanent Fangcang Hospitals, and most were not very positive – most commenters shared their worries about China’s Covid situation about the stringent measures being a never-ending story.

“We’re normalizing nucleic acid test, we’re introducing permanent fangcang hospitals, [but] why isn’t the third Covid vaccination coming through?” one person wondered.

“If there was still a little bit of passion inside me, it was just killed by reading these words ‘Permanent Fangcang Hospital,'” another commenter writes, with one Weibo user adding: “I feel desperate hearing the words ‘Permanent Fangcang Hospital.'”

“Building permanent Fangcang? Why? Why don’t you use the resources you’re now spending on normalizing testing to create more hospital beds, more medical staff and more medications?”

Another commenter wrote: “China itself is one giant permanent Fangcang hospital.”

“The forever Fangcang are being built,” one Weibo user from Guangdong writes: “This will never end. We’ll be locked up like birds in a cage for our entire life.”

For more articles on the Covid-19 topics on Chinese social media, check here.

By Manya Koetse, with contributions by Miranda Barnes

Get the story behind the hashtag. Subscribe to What’s on Weibo here to receive our weekly newsletter and get access to our latest articles:

Featured image via user tongtong [nickname] Weibo.com.

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.

©2022 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

Shanghai ‘Dead Man’ Taken Away to Morgue, Found to Be Alive

An incident in which a man taken to a morgue turned out to be alive doesn’t really help to restore residents’ trust in Shanghai.

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An incident in which a Shanghai man, who was thought to be dead, was taken to a funeral home before he was found to be alive has become a big topic on Chinese social media.

The incident happened on the afternoon of May 1st at the Shanghai Xinchangzheng Nursing Home (上海新长征福利院) in the city’s Putuo District.

A video of the incident went viral on Chinese social media in which a body bag can be seen put into a vehicle by three people, two members of staff from the nursing home and one funeral home worker. Shortly after, the body bag is taken out again and put back on a trolley. One of the nurses zips open the bag, pulls a cover from the man’s face, and apparently finds him to be alive.

“He’s alive,” one of the workers says in shock: “He’s alive, I saw it, he’s alive. Don’t cover him any more.”

The man is then transferred back into the nursing home, still inside the body bag.

The video that is making its rounds on social media was filmed from two different angles, the person filming can be heard calling the incident “a disgrace for human life” and “irresponsible.”

On May 2nd, the Chinese state media outlet People’s Daily posted about the incident on Weibo, saying the city district is currently investigating the case. The man was hospitalized and his vital signs are stable.

Meanwhile, multiple people are held accountable for the incident. The head of the nursing home has been dismissed and will be further investigated, along with four district officials. The license of the doctor involved will also be revoked.

The Shanghai Xinchangzheng Nursing Home has also apologized for the incident (#上海一福利院就未死亡老人被拉走道歉#).

On social media, many people are angry about the incident, wondering why the old man was transported to the funeral home in the first place, and why the members of staff seemed to be indifferent after finding out he was still alive.

In the video, the member of staff standing next to the man can be seen covering the patient’s face again after finding out he is still alive, leaving the body bag zipped up. Many also see this as a cold and incomprehensible way to respond.

After weeks of online anger about the chaotic and sometimes inhumane way in which Shanghai authorities have been handling the Covid outbreak in the city, this incident seems to further lower the public’s trust in how patients and vulnerable residents are being treated.

“Shanghai is such a terrifying place!”, some on Weibo write.

“Just think about it,” one person responded: “This incident took place in one of China’s most prosperous cities and happened to be filmed. How much is happening in other cities that is not caught on camera? Today, it’s this man, in the future, it’s us.”

For more articles on the Covid-19 topics on Chinese social media, check here.

By Manya Koetse, with contributions by Miranda Barnes

Get the story behind the hashtag. Subscribe to What’s on Weibo here to receive our weekly newsletter and get access to our latest articles:

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.

©2022 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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