HIV kits from vending machines

HARBIN • Students at a Chinese university getting their usual fix of instant noodles and soft drinks from the vending machine on campus were greeted with a surprise recently - HIV test kits.

Harbin Medical University is the second university in the province of Heilongjiang - after Harbin University of Science and Technology - to sell the kits from a vending machine. It is part of an initiative by the Chinese Association of STD and HIV/Aids Prevention and Control to address HIV transmission on campus.

Nine such vending machines had been installed in five universities across the country by the end of last year, said the association. Apart from a deposit drawer, the machine looks just like any other vending machine, and also sells snacks, cup noodle and drinks.

A kit is sold at a discounted price of 30 yuan (S$6), compared with 286 yuan on the market.

Mr Zhao Donghui, an HIV specialist with the Heilongjiang Provincial Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), explained the procedure: A person who buys the kit would collect his urine sample and drop it back into the deposit drawer.

Staff at the provincial CDC will be notified by a sensor wired to the drawer. They will retrieve the sample, test it and post the result online. Only the person who buys the test kit can view the result when he logs on to the centre's website and enter a code number.

"The whole process is anonymous," said Mr Zhao.

China had 654,000 people living with HIV/Aids at the end of September last year, according to figures revealed by the China CDC. Sexual transmission accounted for 94 per cent of the 96,000 new cases reported in the nine months last year.

Young students and retirees are found to be the two groups where infection rose the most rapidly.

There were 2,321 students aged between 15 and 24 years who tested positive, more than four times the figure in 2010.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 18, 2017, with the headline 'HIV kits from vending machines'. Print Edition | Subscribe