China Has Started Selling HIV-Testing Kits In Vending Machines

A pilot program is targeting the fastest-growing population of HIV/AIDS patients: Students.

Chinese universities are encouraging students to get tested for HIV in a whole new way: Testing kits are now readily available in select campus vending machines.

Administrators hope this method will make it easier for those who might feel nervous about going to a clinic to find out their status. For around $4, you get a kit with a specimen container a urine sample, which you drop off (anonymously) into a receptacle.

In 10-15 days, the confidential results are provided online.

Chinese HIV Test
Wang HE/Getty Images

So far, the National Center for AIDS/STD Control and Prevention (NCAIDS) has instituted a pilot program on just five campuses, with no comment yet on its success. (Local media, however, is reporting that the Harbin Institute of Engineering has sold “fewer than ten kits” since November.)

Southwest Petroleum University in Sichuan was chosen specifically because the city is an epicenter of HIV infection in China, with more than 1,800 new HIV cases in 2015 alone, 70% involving MSM. In all, Sichuan is home to nearly half of China’s 654,000 reported cases of HIV.

While China has a low HIV rate overall, the rates for gay/bisexual men continue to rise: In 2015, infections among young men who have sex with men (MSM) increased from 58.5% to 81.6% of all infections. Last year, NCAIDS reported 2,200 new HIV infections among students over the age of 15, up from 1,772 the year before. Those age 15 to 24 make up 35% of all new cases.

Trish Bendix is a Los Angeles-based writer.