Testing times for HIV anonymity

Updated:2012-02-22 13:51


Testing times for HIV anonymity

Editor's Note

South China's Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region has drafted legislation that demands personal information for HIV testing. It also requires those who test positive to inform their spouses and sexual partners.

The new rule has sparked an intense debate.

Some argue it could ensure those who test positive are informed in time, allowing them to seek early treatment and prevent the virus from passing to their loved ones; while others oppose the rule, arguing it may violate privacy and scare away people from taking the test.


Testing times for HIV anonymity

Debate on Real-name HIV testing

Protecting partners and disease control

Testing times for HIV anonymity

An intrusion of privacy leads to fear

1. Inform HIV/AIDS carriers

The real-name system will keep related people informed of a patient's condition and take necessary measures to avoid dangerous acts and therefore cut the spread of the disease.

-- Wang Yu, director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

2. Protect spouses or sex partners

Real-name testing will encourage those who test positive to inform their spouses or sex partners.

-- Lv Fan, director of the policy studies department of the China CDC's National Center for AIDS/STD Control and Prevention

Whether or not a person tells others of his/her disease is a matter of privacy. But other people have the right to know the truth if a person could harm them and even put their lives in danger by not revealing the truth.

-- Reader of chinadaily.com.cn

3. Help doctors to collect data

Real-name testing helps doctors quickly reach out to new carriers of the disease.

-- Wang Yu, director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention

1. Potential takers may be scared away

 Many people and AIDS prevention activist groups have attacked the proposal, arguing that fear of exposure may scare away people from taking the test in a society where discrimination against HIV is rampant.

2. Lead to HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment will go backward

The real-name HIV test is sure to lead to HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment going backward, because anonymous tests at least can encourage potential carriers to take tests while a real-name test is bound to make them reluctant to take tests.

-- Yu Fangqiang, executive director of Justice for All, an NGO based in Nanjing, Jiangsu province

3. Break last defense for carriers' privacy

In the current social environment, it's an undoubted fact that HIV carriers' equal rights with healthy people are not guaranteed. The real-name test will break the last defense for HIV/AIDs carriers' privacy.

-- Meng Lin with China Alliance of PLWHA

Right to privacy is a valuable thing, especially in societies where ignorance about issues like HIV/AIDS may lead to condemning the carriers there of.

-- Reader of chinadaily.com.cn

Survey: 50% support HIV test identity rule

Nearly 50 percent of people polled in a recent survey support a proposal that people taking HIV tests should give their real name in Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region in South China as they think it will help prevent the disease spreading.

Another 21.2 percent said they would support the regulation if confidentiality could be guaranteed.

The remaining 29.1 percent didn't agree as they thought the regulation may harm a patient's privacy.

The survey was conducted by sina.com and polled 4,379 people in total.

Timeline: China's efforts to curb HIV/AIDS

China will further expand testing and intervention efforts, including education and drug coverage, according to the country's 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-15) for HIV/AIDS prevention and control.

2011: China is set to substantially expand HIV/AIDS counseling and testing services in the next five years to strive for early detection and treatment.

2010: China lifts a decade-old restriction that banned foreigners with HIV/AIDS from entering the country.

2004: The State Council establishes its AIDS working committee.

2003: Premier Wen visits AIDS patients in a hospital and becomes the first premier to publicly shake hands with AIDS patients in a bid to eliminate social discrimination. China initiates its Four Free and One Care policy.

1998: The National Center for HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control is established. HIV is found for the first time in all 31 Chinese provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities.

1997: Reporting of HIV/AIDS cases is initiated and an epidemic database established.

1995: An HIV sentinel surveillance system is established nationally. All blood and plasma collection stations are shut down.

1985: The first HIV case is detected and the first AIDS death is recorded.

HIV in China: tough visual data

Testing times for HIV anonymity

About 780,000 people will be living with HIV/AIDS on the mainland by the end of this year, 40,000 more than 2009, according to an estimate issued jointly by the Ministry of Health and UNAIDS.

The estimated number of new infections this year stands at 48,000 and 28,000 deaths. Nearly 82 percent of infections resulted from sex, including more than 29 percent through homosexual acts.

China's infection rate overall is 0.06 percent. The WHO defines high prevalence as 1 percent or more.

Gay and bisexual men account for around one in every three new cases of HIV in China, according to the latest official statistics released by the Ministry of Health.(Gay men hit hard by HIV/AIDS)

Of the cases reported so far this year, roughly 20 percent were in people 50 and older, up 10 percentage points from 2007. (80-year-old found with HIV by 'unprotected sex')

Infections among students aged 20 to 24 also increased, with 56 percent contracting the virus via gay sex. (HIV/AIDS cases soar on college campuses)

Click to read more about progress made in China's HIV/AIDS campaign

Testing times for HIV anonymity
HIV testing around the world

Considerable controversy exists over the ethical obligations of health care providers to inform the sexual partners of individuals infected with HIV that they are at risk of contracting the virus. Some legal jurisdictions permit such disclosure, while others do not.

More state funded testing sites are now using confidential forms of testing. This allows for monitoring of infected individuals easily, compared to anonymous testing that has a number attached to the positive test results. Controversy exists over privacy issues.

In developing countries, home-based HIV testing and counseling (HBHTC) is an emerging approach for addressing confidentiality issues. HBHTC allows individuals, couples, and families to learn their HIV status in the convenience and privacy of their home environment.

Rapid HIV tests are most often used, so results are available for the client between 15 and 30 minutes. Furthermore, when an HIV positive result is communicated, the HTC provider can offer appropriate linkages for prevention, care, and treatment.

HIV testing needs a more perfect system

Regulations to protect personal data

Testing times for HIV anonymity

No HIV/AIDS discrimination

Guangxi is mulling regulations to protect personal data and ban any attempt to reveal information to the public without the patient's consent. >>

While discrimination against HIV carriers and AIDS patients still widely exists in China, the problem is even more prominent when it comes to medical treatment. >>

Testing times for HIV anonymity                              

Concluding remarks


Although the new regulation is intended to help prevent the spread of HIV, the number of people taking HIV tests has dropped which could undermine long-term efforts to improve intervention and will increase the chances of the spreading the virus.

"There is still a lot of work to do before real-name testing can be implemented, including confidentiality training for health care personnel, strengthened legal supervision and public anti-discrimination campaigns," Lv Fan, director of the policy studies department of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention.