Good science for effective HIV screening is necessary in China

By David Lee Source:Global Times Published: 2018/6/12 18:53:39

Good science is at play now in colleges in Shanghai, helping to fight against HIV/AIDS. It has been reported that automatic vending machines are now installed in multiple campuses that sell urine test kits for HIV screening purposes.

I laud the innovative technology embraced by health authorities and school administrators. As reported by Xinhua earlier this year, a student may purchase a kit from the vending machine, collect his or her urine and place the sample back into the automatic collection point.

Three to five days later, the student may log onto a screening website and retrieve their testing result by inputting the kit serial number. Thus, without any intrusive blood testing procedure, the person will receive their HIV screening result. Throughout the whole process, the person remains anonymous.

The kit is sold for 30 yuan. If the person later logs onto the website to review their test result, the 30 yuan will be refunded. If the result is positive, the person is entitled to take part in confirmation testing and follow-up medical service - all free of charge.

Rising numbers of HIV-positive cases have been found among Chinese college students. Though fearful of potential infection, many students have chosen not to undergo any testing due to the concern of exposing their personal identity and any resulting discrimination or social stigma.

Now, good science is coming to the rescue. More importantly, it is the open-minded decision makers who play a key role in employing this science and having vending machines installed at college campuses. The installation of the machine itself is a cause to be celebrated, indicating the progressiveness of our society.

According to the national action plan to fight HIV/AIDS during the 13th Five-Year Plan period, regional initiatives were encouraged to explore ways to promote HIV self-screening by leveraging newly available rapid test reagents as well as internet+ reagents. It is tremendously heartening to see our metropolis lead all Chinese cities in implementing self-screening measures in key locations (i.e., colleges) to benefit key vulnerable populations (i.e., college students who may engage in unprotected sex).

The installation of the machines took place within the most recent couple of months. I'd be eager to look at follow-up data, such as the number of persons who voluntarily chose to take part in the screening process, how many HIV-positive cases were found, the proportion of positive cases identified among all screening cases, and data comparison between colleges and localities.

Such valuable data may lead to key insights and trends that sharpen the game of health workers and school administrators in their fight against HIV/AIDS while offering better help and support to infected people.

As Shanghai universities stride forward, the same good science should be introduced to more localities and geographies. It has been reported that some colleges in Beijing, Guangxi, Yunnan, Sichuan, and Heilongjiang are also introducing urine test kit vending machines. Building on the success of the pioneers, more localities might follow suit.

Of course, mere installation of hardware is not enough. These vending machines are tools that can do the screening job more quickly while protecting personal privacy. The really hard work, though, is to educate people on how to use the tools.

Good science is making the process less intrusive. But let us leverage scientific advancement in the fight against HIV/AIDS, which is as much about science as it is about love, care, understanding and support.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Global Times.

Illustration:Lu Ting/GT


Posted in: TWOCENTS

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