China’s biggest gay dating app blamed for rise in underage HIV infections
A popular Chinese gay dating app is causing an increase in the HIV infection of minors, reported Caixin, a leading financial magazine in China, citing a study that found the networking platform guilty of lax identification verification and spreading pornographic content.

Blued, the world’s biggest gay dating app for the LGBT community, was launched by Ma Baoli (also called Geng Le), a former police officer, in 2010, and it now boasts around 40 million registered users mainly from China and southeast Asia.

Some LGBT people confirmed that quite a few juveniles became infected with HIV, a virus that causes AIDS, after going on dates set up via Blued, according to the research led by Zhang Beichuan, a medical expert who has engaged in AIDS prevention and control among gay people since the 1990s.

Before retirement, Zhang was a professor and chief physician of Qingdao University’s School of Medicine. From January to October of 2018, he talked with 56 interviewees including LGBT people, volunteers, and medical specialists. Most of the them blamed Blued for “obviously rising cases” of HIV infections among young kids.

“In recent years, it’s not uncommon for teenage boys to get infected with HIV in big cities. And (we) find it’s mainly because of Blued, the app, which the young kids use to set up dates and then get infected with HIV,” said K (alias), who’s a core member of a LGBT non-profit in a first-tier city. He noted Blued should have the responsibility for ramping up supervision and implementing more effective ID verification.

There have been growing cases of teenage boys (below 16 years old) contracting HIV, and the virus was mainly spread by men who have sex with men, a medical specialist who didn’t want to be named, confirmed. “In 2013, over 30 minors got HIV. In 2017, the number increased to over 70, while in 2017, there were over 90.” He noted most of the cases could be linked to the use of Blued.

Quite a number of registered users of Blued are underage while the networking platform is also infested with inappropriate content, the research led by Zhang Beichuan found. Some observers confirmed with Zhang that there are even juveniles hosting livestreaming on the platform.

According to Caixin, data on HIV infected people is collected and reported by disease control authorities every day, although the data on minors getting AIDS is not made public. Academicians and observers have called on the Chinese government to hold involved businesses responsible for failing to screen underage users which leads to the spread of HIV/AIDS among them.

In his response to Caixin, Mi Guodong, the vice president of Blued, said the platform now contributes 10 percent of its advertising income annually, equaling to around 10 million yuan, for AIDS prevention and control.

Geng Le, the founder of Blued, believes the spread of diseases should not be primarily attributed to social media like Blued. He recalled in the early days of the startup, he was forced to move the platform’s server to other cities under government’s crackdown multiple times. Geng reportedly embarked on quite a lot of high-profile AIDS prevention and control campaigns and thus gained government and public support which helped the later growth of Blued.

Blued has halted new user registration till this Sunday following the report by Caixin. 


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