Controversy Surrounding Real-name HIV Testing
   2012-02-14 15:23:09    CRIENGLISH.com      Web Editor: Xu
South China's Guangxi region, home to the second highest number of HIV infections in China, recently drafted new regulations for HIV/AIDS prevention. In addition to advocating real-name registration for HIV testing, the draft regulation also stipulates that sufferers must tell their partners within three days of testing positive for HIV. The bill, however, has aroused heated debate among doctors, AIDS patients and general observers, with many divided over whether such rules should be put into practice.

Ge Xianmin is director of HIV/AIDS prevention and control at the local health department in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. Ge explained that the region has been hit hard by HIV/AIDS and states that sex is a major transmission route. He believes that such rules would help protect sufferers' partners and avert secondary transmission.

Chen Jianghong, a journalist with China Philanthropy Times and a dedicated reporter on the issue of HIV/AIDS, shared his view.

"I support Guangxi's draft regulation. As soon as a person tests positive for HIV, they are reminded that they must change their unhealthy lifestyle in a bid to better protect their families or sexual partners. The HIV carrier is extremely vulnerable. With a lack of proper healthcare, the victim would be at high risk of contracting more sexual diseases or even tuberculosis. This situation would do harm to the victim himself and disadvantage the national healthcare network."

After her many years of experience in dealing with HIV carriers and AIDS patients, Chen Jianghong found that homosexuals, particularly gay men, constitute a large portion of HIV infection cases in China. Chen revealed that the number of homosexual HIV carriers is higher than that of infected drug users or those who contracted HIV as a result of blood transfusions. She added, however, that homosexuals usually left no record of their health status in official medical institutions, making it hard to track them down for treatment.

Meng Lin, an AIDS patient in Beijing, believes the regulation is impractical since very few homosexuals in China would want to expose their privacy.

"By hiding themselves among ordinary blood donors, many gay people donate their blood in order to find out whether they have been infected. Once they are diagnosed as being HIV positive, they often say they have no idea about the source of their infection. As many homosexuals are all unwilling to expose their identity, I think Guangxi's latest regulations, which require real-name registration for HIV testing, are impractical."

Zhang Ke is a doctor specialized in the area of AIDS, working at Beijing You'an Hospital. He said he opposes real-name registration for HIV testing on the basis of his long-term contact with AIDS patients.

"I'm certainly against such a bill, because discrimination against HIV carriers and AIDS patients is severe in Chinese society. Meanwhile, hospitals are unable to ensure steady follow-up counseling and treatment. According to my experience with AIDS patients, many of them, along with HIV carriers might voice their opposition, which would cause trouble for real-name registration in HIV testing."

Statistics from an evaluation report on the AIDS epidemic in China show an estimated 780,000 people in China were living with HIV/AIDS by the end of 2011. However, only around 300,000 people are aware that they are infected and have reported their infections to relevant authorities.

The evaluation report also disclosed that Sichuan province and Guangxi region reported the most noticeable growth last year in the number of new infections, for which unsafe sex was the major cause.

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