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Chinese University Vending Machine Sells HIV Urine Test Kit

The sale of HIV testing kits in the vending machines of a college in Sichuan has sparked discussion among Weibo netizens. The number of Chinese college students contracting HIV/AIDS has surged in recent years.

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The sale of HIV testing kits in the vending machines of a college in Sichuan has sparked discussion among Weibo netizens. The number of Chinese college students contracting HIV/AIDS has surged in recent years.

One Weibo netizen recently revealed that a vending machine in China’s Southwest Petroleum University (西南石油大学) in Nanchong, Sichuan, offers more than just drinks and snacks; the vending machine also has anonymous HIV urine test kits on sale for only 30 RMB [±4,45 US$].

According to China Business News (@华商报), the original market price for the HIV test kits is between 268-298 RMB [40-45 US$].

The university stated that the vending machine sale of HIV testing kits is an initiative of China’s STD & HIV Prevention Association (中国性病艾滋病防治协会), that wants to try out the sales of these kits in local schools and universities.

Students spoke out in favor of the test sales through vending machines, since it is anonymous and can help control the spread of HIV at Chinese colleges.

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The novel vending machine item was quickly shared among Weibo netizens, of whom some did not see the point of the anonymous HIV tests: “What’s the use? It is better to decrease the risks of getting HIV by being careful with your sexual relations.”

News of the vending machine HIV tests comes a month after Chinese state media reported that the number of Chinese college students contracting HIV/AIDS has surged in China in recent years, with the majority of cases involving gay men.

According to UNaids, there were 501,000 reported cases of people living with HIV/AIDS in China by the end of 2014. Although China’s national HIV prevalence is relatively low, it is characterized by being severe in some areas and among certain groups.

Since the vending machine price of the tests is much lower than the official market price, some netizens see new business opportunities: “The students can buy them and then resell them online!”

On Taobao, the same test is currently sold for 299 RMB [45 US$] on Taobao by the Guangdong Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The test is not a home testing kit, but a urine sample kit that can be anonymously turned in, and the results can be digitally issued.

Similar anonymous HIV tests are also available in the USA, where no names will need to be provided to the testing lab, and people receive a code to get their results by phone.

On Chinese social media, there are also many people who support the sale of the HIV tests in schools. “What is the reason HIV is on the rise in China? It is because a high percentage of people with HIV are not aware they have it, and therefore cannot get early treatment. There is a sense of shame, and they are rejected by society.”

“I see this as a step in the right direction,” one Weibo netizen remarks: “The views need to be gradually changed. The sooner people discover [they have HIV], the sooner they can be treated. This also decreases the risk of people unknowingly infecting others.”

It is probable that by offering the HIV tests through the vending machine, China’s STD & HIV Prevention Association was hoping for it to be picked up by Chinese netizens to raise more awareness of HIV among college students. If that was the case, then they have at least succeeded in turning the HIV tests into a social marketing campaign – the online discussions on the vending machine HIV tests are still continuing on Weibo.

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

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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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China Health & Care

Let’s Talk about Sex, Grandpa: HIV on the Rise among China’s Elderly Men

There’s a sharp rise in HIV among Chinese elderly men, partly caused by a general lack of HIV & safe sex awareness.

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HIV among China’s elderly is a growing problem; it is mostly older men who get infected with HIV through extramarital sex. Their knowledge regarding safe sex is often lacking.

As it is World AIDS Day on December 1st, and while major discussions on the alleged first gene-edited babies immune to HIV are still top trending, other noteworthy HIV-related news is also gaining a lot of attention on Chinese social media these days.

At time of writing, more than 220 million people have viewed the Weibo hashtag “Number of Elderly AIDS Cases on the Rise” (#老年艾滋病病例上升#). The hashtag has emerged amidst news reports that there is a significant rise in the number of HIV cases among the elderly in China, particularly among men.

According to an article published on Weibo by Chinese news outlet The Paper, the number of known cases of HIV among Chinese men above the age of 60 has risen from 8391 cases in 2012 to 19815 cases in 2017.

One WeChat blogger’s response to the rise in number of HIV cases among Chinese elderly men (脊梁in上海).

On November 27, the Hangzhou Center for Disease Control and Prevention (杭州市疾控中心) released news information relating to the problems of the rising cases of HIV and AIDS among the elderly.

In the city of Hangzhou, the detection of HIV among patients who are over 50 years old has doubled over the past three years.

According to a specialist from the Hangzhou center, this rise of HIV has to do with the limited HIV awareness among elderly communities, and with the fact that they are often not accustomed to using condoms.

Extramarital heterosexual sex is the main way of transmission for elderly men, with some also getting HIV because of homosexual sex. For elderly women, marital sex is the main way of transmission.

Because they are often late in seeking medical treatment when they feel unwell, the detection of HIV is often late, which makes that there is a relatively high number of AIDS-related deaths among elderly patients.

The problem of the rising number of HIV patients among China’s elderly population has received more scholarly attention of the past few years. According to a 2014 study by Tang et al, the sharp rise of HIV among elderly became more visible after 2010. In 2011, people over the age of 60 accounted for 28.4% of the total HIV cases Guangxi province (this was 18.7% in 2009).

A study in Nanning, capital of Guangxi, found that heterosexual transmission accounted for 90% of HIV cases among those over 50 years old, and that low-cost commercial sex venues were a primary site of infection (Tang et al 2014, 2).

The research by Tang et al shows that the use of aphrodisiacs (cheaper alternatives to Viagra, often illegally produced in local workshops) is significantly associated with an increased HIV risk for men over 50 who purchase commercial sex with female prostitutes (3).

One popular WeChat blog explained the reasons behind the problem of HIV among China’s elderly as follows:

1. They see prostitutes because they are seeking ways to fulfill their sexual needs.
2. There is little awareness on HIV or AIDS. (According to one story quoted in the blog, an elderly man who was diagnosed with HIV even told the doctor he had washed himself with detergent every time after he had sex with a prostitute – he “did not understand” how he got infected.)
3. They do not know how to use condoms / they are not accustomed to using condoms.

A man washed himself with detergent after visiting a prostitute.

On Weibo, there are many commenters who show their sympathy for the elderly women who get infected with HIV within their marriage because of their husband’s extramarital sexual behaviors. “How tragic for them,” a popular comment said, while others wonder: “What’s the purpose of marriage then?”

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention advises people who have had extramarital sex, homosexual or heterosexual, to get themselves checked on HIV – also if there are people who suspect that their partner might have had sexual encounters outside of the marriage.

“The sex life of the elderly is a sensitive topic, but it needs to be talked about,” well-known lawyer Yi Shenghua (易胜华) writes on Weibo: “If we do not attach importance to the [open] discussion of this topic, the problem of AIDS among China’s eldery will only grow bigger.”

By Manya Koetse and Miranda Barnes

Tang Z, Wu X, Li G, Shen Z, Zhang H, et al. 2014. “Aphrodisiac Use Associated with HIV Infection in Elderly Male Clients of Low-Cost Commercial Sex Venues in Guangxi, China: A Matched Case-Control Study.” PLOS ONE 9(10): e109452. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0109452.

Photo used in featured image by David Sinclair.

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©2018 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 & Care

The Controversial Case of the Chinese Gene-Edited Baby Twins & Reactions on Weibo

He Jiankui’s claim of “gene-edited twins” has sparked international uproar.

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The claim by Chinese researcher He Jiankui that he has edited the genes of two babies to make them resistant to HIV has sparked outrage worldwide. On Weibo, responses are mixed.

Over the past week, news that a Chinese researcher from Shenzen has helped make the world’s first genetically edited babies has made international headlines.

Chinese doctor He Jiankui (贺建奎) and his research team have allegedly succeeded in altering the DNA of embryos, making them resistant to HIV. The twin girls were born this month.

The news was revealed on Monday, November 26, at the Human Genome Editing Summit (国际人类基因组编辑峰会) in Hong Kong, and earlier in exclusive interviews with the Associated Press. According to AP, He and his team have altered embryos for seven couples during fertility treatments, with one pregnancy resulting thus far. An eighth couple had initially agreed to participate, but later withdrew from the project.

The parents involved reportedly declined to be identified or interviewed, and details on where this was done or where the parents of the twin live have not been revealed. The twin girls are only known as ‘Lulu’ (露露) and ‘Nana’ (娜娜).

The researcher, whose work received massive criticism from the international science community, apologized on Wednesday that his research “was leaked unexpectedly,” but still said he was “proud” of altering the genes of twin girls so they could not contract HIV, BBC reports.

He Jiankui is an associate professor at Shenzhen’s Southern University of Science and Technology of China, but said that his research was not affiliated with the institute. The University also stated that his research violates its academic ethics, and that He is currently under investigation.

On Weibo and other Chinese social media, the topic has received great attention over the past few days. The Weibo hashtag “Gene-edited Babies” (#基因编辑婴儿#) received over 250 million views over the past two days, while the hashtag “First Case of Gene-Edited HIV Immune Babies” (#首例免疫艾滋病基因编辑婴儿#) had received 1,6 billion (!) views at time of writing.

People have responded to the controversial experiment with mixed reactions. A majority of netizens simply wonder why the researcher has not been arrested yet and what charges He may face.

But there are also quite some commenters who think the researcher has done groundbreaking work that will be important for the future. “In one hundred years time, this might be considered pioneering work. The pioneers will always be the target of an attack,” some popular comments say, with others agreeing: “New things will always be questioned and criticized.”

But then there are also those who care most about the babies, and some who think the controversial project damages China’s image. “These poor little babies have been used as guinea pigs, they will probably be followed by scientists their entire lives to be researched. What were those parents thinking? Nobody knows what kinds of effects this kind of remolding might have! This is a violation of the laws of nature.”

Others say: “This is unfortunate for the children, it is unfortunate for China, and it is unfortunate for mankind.”

Chinese state media report that the National Health Commission of the People’s Republic of China is currently investigating this case.

By Manya Koetse

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©2018 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com

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What’s on Weibo provides social, cultural & historical insights into an ever-changing China. What’s on Weibo sheds light on China’s digital media landscape and brings the story behind the hashtag. This independent news site is managed by sinologist Manya Koetse. Contact info@whatsonweibo.com. ©2014-2018

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