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A Tongji University library in Shanghai.
Courtesy of Matthias Ripp, Flickr
Health

Chinese Universities Are Putting HIV Testing Kits in Vending Machines

Three universities in Shanghai have placed HIV testing kits among the chips and soda cans in their campus vending machines this month as part of a pilot program to circumvent stigma and promote early detection of the sexually-transmitted disease.

Shanghai Lixin University of Accounting and Finance, Tongji University, and Shanghai University are selling the kits for just $4.80 each. Online, the tests cost nearly $50 in China, according to SHINE, an English-language news publication in Shanghai.

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The program was launched in an effort to combat the rising HIV rates among China’s student population.

Zhongdan Chen, an officer from the China office of the World Health Organization, told Australia’s ABC News that HIV diagnoses among 15- to 19-year-olds in China almost tripled between 2008 and 2017. He also said that about 758,000 people were reported to be living with HIV in China at the end of 2017, but an estimated 30% of those didn’t know they were HIV-positive.

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Discretion is one of the distinct advantages of providing low-cost HIV tests via vending machine.

"Many of these students don't want to visit traditional testing sites such as hospitals and clinics due to fear of discrimination," Zhongdan of the World Health Organization said.

With the vending machine, students only need to buy the test and drop their urine sample into the vending machine’s return box. In three to five business days, they will be able to check their results online using the serial number associated with their test.

“Throughout the process, the testers don’t have to go to the hospital or provide their private information,” Yang Sashuang, a doctor at Shanghai Lixin University, told SHINE.

However, Yang pointed out that the tests are not 100% accurate and may yield false positives, so she encourages those who get positive results to immediately follow up with a doctor to get a blood test.

According to UNAIDS, there were 36.7 million people living with HIV globally in 2016, including 1.8 million new cases that year.

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