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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?

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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.

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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 Health & Science

Viral Politics: Next-Stage Investigation Into Covid-19 Origins Discussed on Weibo

Many Weibo users agree with Chinese officials that the U.S. re-investigation of the Covid-19 origin is about “political manipulation” and “blame-shifting.”

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While President Biden ordered a closer review into the origins of the Covid-19 and more countries are calling for action on a next phase study, Chinese officials demand that the U.S. thoroughly investigates the source of the epidemic within America’s own borders and biological labs.

Fifteen months after the WHO declared the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak a global pandemic, the origin of the virus is still unclear. After the Wuhan field visit of the international WHO research team earlier in 2021, all hypotheses on the origin of the virus remain on the table.

As the efforts to get more people vaccinated continue and the outlook on containing Covid-19 are more positive, the question of where the virus that causes Covid-19 came from is attracting attention again. The issue of the ‘origin investigation problem’ (“溯源问题”) is also generating discussions on Chinese social media.

 

The U.S. Side: “Looking for a Definitive Conclusion”

 

On May 26, the White House released President Joe Biden’s statement calling for further investigation into the origins of Covid-19.

The statement says that there is still no definitive conclusion on the origins of the virus, with two scenarios being most likely: human contact with an infected animal or a laboratory accident. Biden writes that he has asked the Intelligence Community to “redouble their efforts to collect and analyze information that could bring us closer to a definitive conclusion,” asking for a follow-up within 90 days, with a special focus on China.

Speculation that the coronavirus may have emerged from a laboratory in Wuhan was first raised in early 2020, before being refuted and sidelined as a “conspiracy theory” by many scientists.

A statement in The Lancet published in February of 2020 condemned any rumors on the virus origins, claiming that scientific research “overwhelmingly” concludes that the new coronavirus originated in wildlife. The WHO research team investigating the origins of Covid-19 also called it “extremely unlikely” that the virus leaked from a lab in China.

The American Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, was among those scientists who originally refuted the ‘lab leak’ theory. But in May of 2021, Fauci said he was “no longer convinced” that the Covid-19 pandemic originated naturally.

In American media, reports on the ‘lab leak theory’ have also seen shifting narratives, going from a ‘conspiracy theory’ to a seemingly credible one. Last month, a Wall Street Journal published an opinion article titled ‘The Science Suggests a Wuhan Lab Leak,’ which claims that the pathogen of the novel coronavirus has a genetic footprint that has never been observed in a natural coronavirus.

The Wall Street Journal also reported on a study by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, which concluded that the hypothesis of a virus leak from a Chinese lab in Wuhan is plausible and deserves further investigation. The report by Wall Street Journal included an alleged American State Department’s assertion that the U.S. government has reason to believe that several researchers inside the Wuhan Institute of Virology became sick in autumn 2019, “with symptoms that were consistent with Covid-19 or a seasonal flu.”

 

The Chinese Side: “It’s All about Blame-Shifting”

 

Chinese officials have repeatedly denied a possible leak from a Chinese laboratory and have emphasized their cooperation with international efforts to find the origins of the pandemic.

On May 27 of this year, a day after Biden’s statement was released, Zhao Lijian (赵立坚), spokesperson for the Foreign Ministry, responded to the reinvestigation of China regarding the origins of the novel coronavirus.

Zhao argued that the US is not actually interested in the scientific origin of the virus, but that its determination to reinvestigate China despite previous scientific conclusions is all about “political manipulation” and “blame-shifting.” He further said that the US – with over 33 million confirmed Covid-19 cases and 600,000 deaths from Covid-19 – should examine its own behavior, instead of “attempting to scapegoat China.”

Although China was the first country to report Covid-19 infections, the official stance has been that this does not necessarily mean that the new coronavirus “patient zero” was also in China.

Prior to the Wuhan lab leak theory, China had been questioning the US military base Fort Detrick in Fredrick, Maryland, about the leak of Covid-19 as an agent of biochemical warfare. In May of last year, China’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying asked for an international review of Fort Detrick and other bio-labs.

In light of recent developments, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin (汪文斌) also, again, suggested that the U.S. should invite an international team of scientists to conduct an independent investigation on Fort Detrick on its potential link to the origin of Covid-19.

Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Zhao Lijian during the press conference.

This stance was again reiterated by Zhao Lijian in a June 17 press conference, where the MFA spokesperson asked the U.S. to explain why, being the most medically country in the world, their COVID19 death toll was so high and why nobody would take responsibility for this and give more transparency on Fort Detrick.

On June 22, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs turned the tables on the U.S. and demanded a thorough investigation of (1) the source of the epidemic in the United States, a (2) thorough investigation of the why’s and who’s of the American inadequate response in fighting the epidemic, and then also (3) an investigation into the safety concerns at Fort Detrick other biological labs (#赵立坚请美国赶紧回答3个问题#).

 

Weibo Discussions and Hashtags

 

On Chinese social media, various discussions and hashtags have come up in response to the recent developments regarding the research into the COVID19 origins. Most commenters agree on one thing, namely that the next stage of Covid-19 origin investigations is seemingly more about politics than about the virus itself.

A hashtag titled “Biden Ordered US Intelligence to Investigate the Origins of Covid-19” (#拜登令美情报部门调查新冠病毒起源) appeared on the same day as the White House statement was released and immediately attracted over 35 million views. Another relating hashtag on Weibo is “U.S. Specialists Have Changed Their Tune Regarding COVID19 Origin” (#美国专家在新冠病毒的来源上改口了#).

On Weibo, the most common reaction to Biden’s investigation and American media coverage of the origins of the virus is one of suspicion towards their true intentions, ranging from intense emotions to sarcastic humor. Weibo users suggest that Biden’s call to action is a politically charged move to further blame China for the pandemic amidst growing China-US tensions. Most netizens commenting under this hashtag feel that the U.S. is deliberately hyping the issue to discredit China, turning the COVID19 origins issue into a geopolitical issue, rather than a scientific one.

One popular comment (@乐隐灯清) said: “If I say you have it, then you have it – [this is] the second season of ‘Laundry Detergent’!” This sarcastic comment refers to the famous UN meeting where US Secretary of State Colin Powell presented a vial containing white powder, supposedly proving that Saddam Hussein was stockpiling anthrax, in order to justify the US’s invasion of Iraq. Putin fired back by calling this vial of powder “laundry detergent.”

There are also web users who are concerned with the 90-day limit of Biden’s announced investigation, questioning whether such a relatively short time would be enough for a thorough and fair study. One user, whose profile image is the Chinese national flag, wrote: “90 days? If you investigated Fort Detrick starting in the morning, you would already have the conclusion before lunchtime!”

One user questioned the US President’s move to trace Covid-19’s origin in China instead of in his own country: “Are they giving 90 days to investigate the origin or 90 days to fabricate a rumor?”

Another hashtag is “Where did the new coronavirus originate?” (#新冠肺炎病毒起源于哪里#). On this hashtag page, most discussions revolve around the fact that COVID19 was already found in various countries outside of China during or just before the early days of the Wuhan outbreak. Various studies suggest that the coronavirus might have been circulating in the US and France a month before it was officially confirmed.

“The fact that Chinese scientists were the first to discover the genetic sequence of the new coronavirus does not mean that Wuhan is the source of Covid-19, and it certainly cannot be used as a pretext to conclude that the virus was made by Chinese scientists,” one Weibo blogger (@侠骨一点情) wrote.

There are those who believe it is probable that the virus did come from the U.S., saying that the American investigation into China is an issue of “zéi hǎn zhuō zéi” (贼喊捉贼), an idiom that literally means ‘a thief crying “Stop Thief!”,’ conveying the idea that it is easy for someone to accuse another in order to cover up one’s own misdeeds.

‘Investigate Thoroughly! Except Here’ (‘彻查!除了这儿’) by 半桶老阿汤 / Half Can of Old Soup

In response to the investigation, the computer graphics artist @半桶老阿汤 / ‘Half Can of Old Soup’ also released a cartoon, showing President Biden blocking the entrance to Fort Detrick, with a WHO research team standing in front of the entrance.

Many web users support the Chinese official reaction that it is time for America to investigate the epidemic within its own borders. “First, discrediting and framing China regarding the virus origin has become a ‘national policy’ of the U.S. government to get rid of their [own] predicaments,” Chinese economist Tao Yongyi (@陶永谊) wrote on Weibo: “Now, the best defense is a good offense.”

By Susanna Sun & Manya Koetse

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us.

©2021 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

China’s COVID-19 Vaccine Freebies: Get One Vaccine, Get Milk & Eggs for Free!

“Do I get free transport and a freebie with that vaccine?”

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While American vaccine incentives – where some counties would offer a free beer and fries to encourage more Americans to get the COVID-19 vaccine – made international headlines, Chinese vaccine incentives have also been attracting the attention on Weibo and beyond.

Forget about free beer and fries. How about getting free milk, eggs, toilet paper, laundry detergent, or sesame oil after getting your shot? In China, and especially in Shanghai, some local vaccine sites have been offering all kinds of noteworthy freebies to encourage citizens to come and get their shots.

Since March and April of this year, netizens are sharing photos of COVID-19 vaccine posters online, such as this one, where you get a carton of milk after getting vaccinated:

Or these, where you get free vegetable oil or sesame oil:

Or how about two boxes of eggs?

One local initiative even offered free toilet paper earlier this year:

Another place in Shanghai offered bags of rice for free with your shot:

And others offered free pick-up services to those getting vaccinated:

Here you see people leaving with their milk cartons (and vaccinated!):

The freebies were meant to encourage more people to get their shots. But because of recent new COVID-19 cases in places like Anhui and Liaoning, more people are now in a rush to get vaccinated. Viral videos and posts on social media showed long queues at vaccine sites.

Popular WeChat account Xinwenge (新闻哥) reported a rapid shift in attitudes among young people towards getting the vaccine, from “do I get free transport and a freebie with that vaccine?” to “I’ll stand in line and do anything as long as I can get vaccinated.”

“Confirmed local cases will motivate people more [to get the vaccine] than eggs and milk,” one blogger from Guangdong wrote on Weibo.

Despite the surge of people going out to get their vaccine, some places still offer vaccine freebies. On social media, people are sharing the photos of their ‘vaccine souvenirs’; plastic bags with milk and cookies.

One Weibo user writes: “I was never so enthusiastic about getting my shot, until I heard they offered free milk and laundry detergent.”

Another Weibo user also shows off their ‘vaccine present’, getting free milk, soap, and rice with their COVID-19 vaccine: “And I didn’t even have to stand in line!”

By Manya Koetse & Miranda Barnes

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.

©2021 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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