Uni HIV test machines 'need more promotion'

Wan Tingting
Three vending machines selling HIV testing kits at universities in Songjiang University Town were installed in April, but there are calls for better promotion among students.
Wan Tingting

Three vending machines dispensing HIV test kits in local universities have met moderate success since they went into use in April, but supporters say more promotion is need.

Forty-four kits have been sold and 31 samples submitted for testing, the city’s disease control authorities said yesterday.

“It meets my expectations as the kit is not as widely needed as the snacks, noodles and drinks sold alongside them,” Yang Sashuang, a doctor at he Shanghai Lixin University of Accounting and Finance. “Some students are still waiting to see how the machine works, whether it can really protect privacy.”

More promotion is needed to inform students throughout the Songjiang University Town, where Lixin is located, Yang said.

The machines at Lixin, Tongji University and Shanghai University, are part of a program run by the Chinese Association of STD and HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

They look like ordinary vending machines and sell the kits for just 30 yuan (US$4.30), compared with almost 300 yuan in the market.

Anonymous

The process is anonymous, avoiding the need to visit hospitals or test centers. The test involves taking a urine sample and dropping the kit back in the machine.

School clinic staff or volunteers collect the samples and send them to local disease control centers. The results are posted on a website in three to five working days using codes from the kits.

So far, students have mixed views.

“It is very essential for college students,” said Stella Tang, an accounting major at Lixin. “HIV patients are becoming younger and younger, but some colleges lack safe-sex education.”

But she believes the machine should be in a more private location instead of near the campus convenience store.

Kay Tu, a graduate student in civil engineering at Tongji University, was less positive.

“Even if they are anonymous, even if those who use them are just looking for a normal health examination, when someone sees them using the vending machine, it might arouse suspicion about promiscuity or homosexuality,” Kay said.

HIV infection rates among students are increasing.

A 2015 report by the national health and family planning commission found young students accounted for 16.58 percent of HIV infections in people aged between 15 and 24 in 2014, compared with 5.77 percent in 2008.

The report also found 81.6 percent of infected students contracted HIV through male homosexual transmission in 2014, compared with 58.5 percent in 2008.

In 2017, the state council listed young students as a key target group for HIV education and testing in the 13th five-year plan for preventing and controlling AIDS.


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