Su Siying (pseudonym), a senior at a Beijing-based university, got tested for HIV in June after she came down with a rash and her boyfriend at the time had a persisting low fever.
She tested positive. "I cannot believe it's true," Su recalled. "I couldn't help deluding myself into thinking it was just a mistake."
While Su's condition is now generally stable with months of antiviral treatment, the virus remains a fear and uncertainty for the 20-year-old.
"I feel like walking in a swampy jungle, having no idea what lies ahead for me - a firm ground or death," she told the Global Times.
Su is among the growing group of China's HIV-infected college students. Official statistics showed that in 2018, 18.9 percent of China's young HIV patients aged between 15 and 24 were students, much higher than the 10.4 percent in 2011.
Although China has successfully halted the rapid spread of AIDS on campuses through public policy efforts, the number of young Chinese students infected with HIV remains at a high level of around 3,000 each year, Wu Zunyou, the chief epidemiologist of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (China CDC), said on November 24, a week ahead of this year's World AIDS Day on Tuesday.
Students, especially college students, who enjoy relatively more sexual freedom than middle schoolers living with parents, are becoming a primary focus on China's HIV prevention and control work, medical experts told the Global Times, saying it is necessary and urgent to carry out AIDS and sex-related education on college campuses, commonly considered a vulnerable places for HIV.