Introduction Little is known about the role, tone, and nature of Sina Weibo, Chinese version of Twitter in discussions of HIV-positive patients’ privacy and their partner’s health rights. To further explore these issues, we focused on a recent lawsuit in China in which, a man (Mr. X) sued a local hospital for negligently failing to inform him of his fiancée’s HIV-positive status after a medical checkup that resulted in his HIV infection.
Methods Using the Sina Weibo’s built-in search tool, we extracted 342 Chinese-language original micro-blogs about Mr. X’s HIV infection case that were posted in the month following January 10, 2016, the date that this case appeared in the news. We then conducted a content analysis focusing on the following issues: attitudes of micro-blog users towards the doctor’s duty to inform Mr. X of his fiancée’s HIV status and reasons for these attitudes; laws refered by micro-blogs; and whether a deliberate non-disclosure is deemed a criminal offence by micro-blog users.
Results 47.08% of micro-blogs (n=161) believe the doctor should have informed Mr. X of his fiancée’s HIV status, and almost half of them argued that patient’s confidentiality should be compromised. 22.51% of micro-blogs (n=77) were in support of maintaining the absolute confidentiality of the HIV-positive patient. Relevant Chinese laws were cited in 77 micro-blogs, and 8 Weibo users asserted that both the doctors’ and the wife’s deliberate non-disclosure constituted a criminal offence.
Conclusion More than half of Weibo users did not support the compromise of patient’s privacy when discussing the doctor’s role in the disclosure of HIV-positive status in Mr. X’s case. The dilemma over privacy of HIV-positive patients and the legislative conflicts claimed by Weibo users indicate that clear counselling guidelines for HIV/AIDS disclosures should be made available to healthcare providers. We also believe that this case provides an opportunity for the Chinese court to decide how to balance partners’ health rights and patients’ confidentiality regarding the HIV infection.
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