China Bars AIDS Advocate From Traveling to U.S. to Receive Humanitarian Award
China will not allow Gao Yaojie, a retired gynecologist who has worked to "expose the link" between the blood trade and HIV transmission in China, to travel to the United States to receive an award for her work, the Washington Post reports. Gao was due to travel to the United States by Thursday to receive the Jonathan Mann Award for Global Health and Human Rights from the Global Health Council, but said she was denied a passport because she was accused of "working for anti-China forces." Her award will instead be accepted by Wan Hanhai, a "leading Chinese AIDS activist" based in the United States. Wan stated that Chinese government officials accused Gao of collaborating with "anti-Chinese forces" because she had given several interviews to Western reporters (Pomfret, Washington Post, 5/30). Chinese officials also told the police that Gao had "political problems" and "fear[ed] what she would say" at the awards ceremony (Rennie, Britain's Daily Telegraph, 5/30).
Exposing the Blood Trade
Gao is one of the Chinese scientists "at the forefront of a movement" aiming to show how blood dealers -- many of whom reused needles and mixed different patients' blood -- contributed to an "outbreak" of HIV in central China. For the last two years, Gao has worked to stem the spread of the virus in the rural province of Henan (Washington Post, 5/30). She has also become the "unofficial leader of an embattled band of Chinese doctors and scientists fighting to raise official awareness of an AIDS 'timebomb' in the impoverished heartlands," the Daily Telegraph reports (Daily Telegraph, 5/30). However, the Post reports that "sources knowledgeable about the AIDS problem in Henan" said that Gao made an "apparent misstep" in confronting the provincial health department because "it had been a leader of the for-profit blood drive." Henan officials have criticized Gao for "affecting the investment environment" in the province. Gao had planned to use the $20,000 award to print copies of an AIDS prevention guide for villagers, but said she was afraid the government would not let her keep the money (Washington Post, 5/30).