Popular Chinese dating app challenging country’s HIV stigma

World Today

In China, HIV testing and treatment services remain inaccessible for many because of long-standing stigmas.

But as CGTN’s Ryan Chua reports, efforts are being made in the private sector to tackle the problem.

It’s been more than four years, but Xiao Ji still recalled the day he was diagnosed with HIV. The diagnosis only happened by accident. He was in the hospital because of a stomach problem when blood tests revealed his condition.

“I didn’t know much about the disease at the time,” Xiao explained. “I thought it was impossible for me to contract it. So when the doctor told me about my condition, I was devastated. My mind went blank and I thought about suicide.”

Had he not been in the hospital for another reason, Xiao says he wouldn’t have known his HIV status. Being LGBT is still taboo in China, so many gay men find it hard to access services like HIV-testing.

It’s a problem the online social networking platform Blued has sought to address for years. The company has tapped into the popularity of its dating app, with more than 27 million users, to promote HIV awareness and prevention, and encourage testing.

“Most of them want to try to be hidden and the population don’t want to come out to get services,” Blued’s Dr. Mi Guodong explained. “Through this platform, the app, which is a smartphone-based app, we can approach the people who hide themselves.”

Blued offers free HIV testing in its Beijing office and other locations in China. This is in partnership with the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, or China CDC.

A year after his diagnosis, Xiao started a HIV support group and counseling service.

“I wanted to help the gay community learn about safe sexual conduct and understand what HIV really is. The fact that a lot of my friends who had HIV and other diseases died, left a lasting impression on me.”

Roger Detels discusses HIV in China and around the world