Chinese Media ‘Finally’ Cover AIDS as an Epidemic
A "flurry of blunt articles," some of them containing "outright criticisms" of the Chinese government's "half-hearted" efforts to combat HIV/AIDS, have recently appeared in official Chinese news media, the New York Times reports. Until recently, the media mainly recited without comment government statistics about the disease, which maintain that 20,711 people nationwide have tested positive for HIV and 397 have died of AIDS. Even Chinese health officials, however, "estimate privately" that there are more than 500,000 likely HIV carriers in China. Although some earlier articles noted that HIV rates were rising in urban areas -- where the disease is seen "almost exclusively" as a problem of drug addicts and prostitutes -- little was made until recently of the "staggering" problem in rural communities. But late last month, the Southern Weekend, a paper run by the Communist Party in Guangdong province, ran a "damning expose" on the prevalence of the disease in rural parts of Henan province. It estimated that the actual number of infections in the province was upwards of 10,000, while official government records registered only 639 cases. Most of those infections, the paper reported, resulted from unsterilized equipment used in drawing blood for sale on the black market. Since that article, reports have appeared in other media outlets, including a supplement to the People's Daily, the official newspaper of the Communist Party, which used World AIDS Day on Dec. 1 as an opportunity to run a commentary on the state of HIV in China. The article acknowledged the "explosive growth" of HIV in rural communities and "harshly condemned local governments that tried to quash information about the disease," noting that what is known about HIV is "just the tip of the iceberg." But "such practices are clearly continuing even as they are being increasingly criticized," the Times reports, citing the case of Dr. Gao Yaojie, a retired gynecologist who spoke to a foreign reporter this fall about the prevalence of HIV in rural Henan. Accused of "consorting with a 'spy,'" she has been harassed by officials and prohibited from giving small AIDS seminars that she had organized in the province. In an article last weekend, China Youth Daily, the official paper of the Communist Youth League, ran a profile of Gao, calling her "a true friend of HIV sufferers" (Rosenthal, New York Times, 12/17).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.