Washington Post Examines Blood Trade in China
The blood trade in China has served as a "major catalyst" for HIV transmission in the country, and Chinese officials are now "worry[ing]" that China will soon face an AIDS epidemic, the Washington Post reports. China currently has one million HIV-infected individuals, but Chinese researchers anticipate that this figure could jump to 10 million in just "a few years." Partly to blame for this increase is the country's blood trade, which received a "massive boost" in 1993 when foreign firms began to purchase Chinese blood. The clamor for blood resulted in the rise of "blood heads" -- dealers who pay individuals, many of whom are farmers, for their blood, and then sell the blood to hospitals or blood banks. The blood heads, however, often reuse collection needles and often mix blood from different patients, which they then reinject into a patient's veins so he or she can donate again sooner. Chinese health experts believe that one-fifth of all HIV-infected individuals in China contracted the disease by selling their blood, and the Chinese media recently began reporting on the link between the blood trade and the spread of HIV. Last August, the official newspaper China News Weekly printed a "shocking article" about the dangers of the blood trade, and in November, one of China's "most popular weeklies," the Southern Weekend, devoted a full edition to AIDS and the "tribulations" of individuals in Henan who contracted HIV through selling their blood. Official statistics on the number of HIV infections contracted through blood selling in China are "sketchy" because China's Health Ministry "does not publicly acknowledge the importance of blood selling to the AIDS problem," the Post reports. According to the ministry's statistics, 72.1% of HIV infections were contracted through intravenous drug use, 6.8% were contracted through sex and 21.1% were contracted through "unknown" causes -- a label that Southern Weekend said is "a euphemism for blood."
China's "growing" sex trade is also responsible for HIV transmission. He Xiong, the government AIDS prevention official, said that the number of infections contracted through sexual contact is rising, especially on China's "richer" east coast. China's increasingly "relaxed lifestyle" could be one factor in this increase. Besides the expanding sex industry, premarital sex is now "the norm" for China's urban middle class, the Post reports. The government is taking steps to stem the spread of HIV through sex by educating sex workers and distributing condoms (Pomfret, Washington Post, 1/11).