CDC responds concerns over real-name HIV tests

Updated: 2012-02-13 16:19


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BEIJING - Real-name HIV testing will allow health care personnel to maintain contact with HIV carriers and help carriers to prevent their intimate partners from being infected, an official with the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (China CDC) was quoted as saying in the Monday edition of Health News, the Ministry of Health's affiliated newspaper.

Lv Fan, director of the policy studies department of the China CDC's National Center for AIDS/STD Control and Prevention, made the remark in an interview with Health News in response to public concerns over real-name HIV testing.

The public's worries were triggered by a controversial piece of legislation that may soon be approved in south China's Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region.

A draft regulation on HIV/AIDS prevention is expected to be handed over to the standing committee of the region's local people's congress for approval. The regulation states that HIV tests should be carried out on a real-name basis, with those who test positive obliged to inform their spouses or sex partners.

The concerns were further stoked by remarks delivered by the head of China CDC during a Ministry of Health press conference last Wednesday. Wang Yu, director of China CDC, advocated the use of real-name HIV testing at the press conference.

Many people, particularly those from the HIV-positive community, fear that a real-name registry might create privacy issues and discourage people from going in to be tested.

Lv said real-name testing has actually been in use in China since 2004, although it is not specified in medical industry regulations.

China currently has 450,000 registered HIV carriers and AIDS patients, 90 percent of whom are registered under their real names, according to Lv, adding that most of the anonymous cases took their tests in the early days of HIV testing in China.

Lv said testing numbers have not been affected by real-name registry practices, adding that the number of people coming in to be tested actually increased from 60 million in 2010 to nearly 80 million in 2011.

Lv said the real-name registry could help health care personnel to inform HIV carriers of their affliction, provide them with relevant knowledge and observe the development of their disease.

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

Since sexual transmission is now the primary channel for spreading HIV, Lv said obligatory notices will reduce high-risk sexual behavior and protect the partners of HIV carriers.

However, Lv said he recognizes that 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 also warned of using a "one-size-fits-all" method to implement the real-name registry, stating that the demands of certain at-risk groups should be heeded in order to encourage them to seek out testing.