Vending machines have sold everything from potato chips to live crab, but this latest item being sold by vending machines in some Chinese universities could be one of the biggest advancements yet.
For decades now, there has been a lot of fear surrounding HIV, especially in places such as China. Because HIV/AIDS is so often associated with homosexuality (which is still very taboo in China), people are often afraid or embarrassed when it comes to HIV testing. That’s where the vending machines come in.
Because of the stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS, many patients with HIV/AIDS are often turned away from hospitals and clinics which can make treatment nearly impossible. In efforts to raise awareness and to end this stigma, Chinese health authorities have placed HIV testing kits in vending machines at five college campuses. These tests cost the equivalent of about $4 for a kit with a urine sample that can be dropped off anonymously at a receptacle in the machine. The results of these tests can be seen online in 10 to 15 days.
“Helping people to run a test for themselves like a take-home pregnancy test would be very helpful” -Martin Yang (Program Manager at the Beijing Gender Health Education Institute)
Many believe that these vending machine HIV testing kits are the first step in ending the stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS. HIV-related stigma and discrimination exist worldwide, although they manifest themselves differently across countries, communities, religious groups and individuals. This discrimination could lead to loss of income and livelihood, poor health care, and feelings of worthlessness.
Data shows that about 654,000 people in China are living with HIV, but most researchers believe the true number is actually higher. By providing easy access to HIV testing kits to young people at universities, the National Center for AIDS/STD Control and Prevention (NCAIDS) is working towards protecting, including, empowering, and educating in order to help end the stigma surrounding HIV and AIDS.