Post Magazine

Chinese gay dating app Blued puts hold on new users over HIV/Aids fears for minors

Concerns have surfaced over minors' access to mobile dating platforms with a popular Chinese gay dating app suspending registration of new users after a report that some underage users contracted HIV on dates set up via the app.

Blued, which was launched in 2010 and now boasts 40 million registered users, said on Sunday that it would launch a "comprehensive content audit and regulation", and crack down on texts, pictures and groups that involved minors, as well as underage users posing as adults.

"Blued has always forbidden juveniles from logging on to and using the app," the company said in a statement on its verified Twitter-like Weibo account.

It added that it had used artificial intelligence to weed out pornographic content since last year, and vowed to further support HIV/Aids prevention work.

In a cover story this week, prominent magazine Caixin Weekly reported that some minors were heavy users of the app, with teenagers even live-streaming.

Citing academic research, the report said many teenagers had unprotected sex and contracted HIV on dates set up through the app.

The report cited the results of a 10-month survey of 56 health workers, members of the gay community and their support groups conducted by Zhang Beichuan, a leading expert on HIV/Aids prevention and a sexologist at Qingdao University.

Blued was unavailable for comment.

Peng Xiaohui, from the China Sexology Association, said he had "been worrying and warning Blued's founder to make efforts to prevent minors from using the app".

"Now the report has proved my worries to be true ... The public should respect the lawful rights and interests of the gay community. And the app must take responsibility to protect minors and abide by the law," Peng said.

The number of people in China living with HIV/Aids reached 820,756 by the end of June, up 14 per cent year on year, state news agency Xinhua reported in September, quoting a government health official.

In the second quarter alone, 93 per cent of new HIV/Aids cases were the result of sexual transmission.

Caixin's report said most children aged under 14 contract HIV/Aids through transmission from their mother but some support workers in gay communities said they had noticed a small but growing incidence of infection through male-to-male sex.

China has a vibrant lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender scene, though activists say conservative attitudes among some groups in society have prompted occasional government clampdowns.

Blued is backed by state-run The Beijing News. It is the brainchild of a former policeman who quit his job to play Cupid to millions of gay men in China.

Additional reporting by Reuters

This article originally appeared on the South China Morning Post (SCMP).

Copyright (c) 2019. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

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