Real-name HIV testing no threat to privacy

Updated: 2012-02-13 19:16


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NANNING - In response to criticism of a local proposal to require real-name HIV testing, local officials and medical practitioners have said that the personal information of those who are HIV-positive or infected with AIDS is well protected.

Controversy has raged online since South China's Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region drafted legislation that demands personal information for HIV testing and requires those with positive results to inform their spouses and sexual parters.

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

Liu Li, an official from the Department of Health of Guangxi, countered by saying personal data is kept secret and no information leaks have been reported since the region adopted a real-name HIV confirmation testing policy two years ago.

The number of people taking HIV tests has increased by 50 percent over the period, suggesting that privacy concerns are limited, Liu said.

Liu said the region is also mulling regulations to protect personal data and ban any attempt to reveal information to the public without the patient's consent.

China currently offers HIV tests without asking for personal details from the takers. But some HIV-ridden provinces and autonomous regions like Yunnan and Guangxi adopted the real-name registration policy out of what authorities say are considerations for disease prevention and control.

Some doctors have expressed support for the proposal, saying the anonymous registration and the use of false identities have hindered their efforts to collect data and provide timely treatment.

"Without having their personal information, we can't quickly inform those who have contracted HIV or encourage them to seek early treatment," said Huang Shaobiao at the No 4 People's Hospital of Nanning, the regional capital of Guangxi.

"It's also imperative that HIV carriers should warn their partners, so as to prevent the virus from passing on to their loved ones," Huang said.

In a previous statement, Wang Yu, director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, also praised real-name testing for helping doctors quickly reach out to new carriers of the disease.

But some experts and activists have remained skeptical about the alleged benefits.

Li Hu, the head of Haihe Star, a peer support group in north China's Tianjin municipality, said people going for the test are concerned about their health, and will return to testing centers for results no matter what.

"I believe most people will reduce their high-risk behavior and seek treatment upon learning they are HIV-positive," Li said.