Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report Rounds Up Recent Coverage of HIV/AIDS in China
Chinese officials' recent admission that the country is experiencing an HIV/AIDS epidemic has prompted several newspapers to run stories on the issue. The following are some of the stories that have appeared this week:
- Baltimore Sun, "China's Inaction Carries AIDS Toll": Due to China's "opaque political system" and the country's large population, it is "impossible to know" the scope of China's HIV/AIDS epidemic, though official estimates said at the end of last year that 600,000 people were infected with HIV. Last week, the government announced plans to spend $117 million on improving the safety of the nation's blood supply and another $12 million per year on HIV/AIDS education and prevention efforts, but according to the Sun, "[i]t didn't have to be this way" for China. Since the first case of AIDS was reported in China in 1985, government officials have been presented with several opportunities to publicly discuss the disease and dispel myths and misconceptions about it, but they instead chose to keep quiet (Langfitt, Baltimore Sun, 8/30).
- Detroit Free Press, "Stubborn Tuberculosis Ravages China's Poor": Compounding China's HIV/AIDS epidemic is the widespread presence of tuberculosis. More than 400 million Chinese have TB and more than 250,000 die from it every year. A "surge" in drug-resistant strains and the "soaring" rate of HIV infection have helped the disease rebound. Despite these factors, international health officials say that TB can be overcome in China if the government takes action. "TB is not a technical problem, but a political commitment and monetary problem," Dr. Lin Yan from the World Health Organization's Beijing office said, adding that the "only problem is how to control resources and increase funding" to fight the disease (Dorgan, Detroit Free Press, 8/30).
- U.S. News & World Report, "On the Trail of a Killer": In its Sept. 3 issue, U.S. News profiles the rising rates of HIV/AIDS in China and traces the path of the disease along drug trafficking routes from the opium farms near the Burmese border north into China's "heartland." Although HIV/AIDS "came late" to the country, the epidemic "is about to explode," with as many as 600,000 people thought to be infected, U.S. News & World Report reports. Fed by the drug trade, prostitution and a blood industry that may have infected large numbers in the Henan province, "China may face the fate of those African countries with 35% of the population infected" if the government does not take action to curb the spread of the disease, Janos Annus, the World Health Organization's Chinese representative, said (Fang, U.S. News & World Report, 9/3).
Op-Eds, Editorials Weigh In
- In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, Journal editorial writer Collin Levey, who is based in Hong Kong, writes that although the government admission that more than 600,000 people may have AIDS was "hailed as a turning point," it was not one "in the way the international AIDS community hopes." According to Levey, Chinese officials admitted that the country is facing an HIV/AIDS epidemic for one reason: "The world already knew, and it was costing the government credibility in getting things it wants even more than it wants to deny this particular public health problem." Chinese officials have been "diligently pursuing a place of power and influence on the world stage" with the goal of "get[ting] as much as possible while giving up as little as possible," she writes. The China recently secured the right to host the 2008 Olympics and appears "on the brink" of joining the World Trade Organization, things the government has called "victories." But "each of these victories opens China a little more to the kind of scrutiny that the Chinese governments have traditionally preferred to avoid," Levey continues. At another time in history, "the effort to sweep the dead and dying under the rug might have succeeded," but with China pushing itself into the international spotlight, denying the HIV/AIDS problem any longer became unrealistic, she states. Levey concludes, "As the dramatic public reversal on AIDS demonstrates, under the glare of such scrutiny undemocratic regimes have to begin acting like democratic ones. They have to respond to problems as if they were going to be held accountable." Even though the Chinese government knows it cannot completely halt the HIV/AIDS epidemic, it does not want to appear as if it "isn't doing anything" (Levey, Wall Street Journal, 8/30).
- A San Francisco Chronicle editorial adds that China's long-standing denial of its HIV/AIDS problem allowed the disease to get a "potentially dreadful foothold" in the country. "Silence denied a vulnerable population the preventive education it needs," the editorial continues, adding that the government's recently announced $12 million budget for prevention efforts "still falls short" in the face of a 67% increase in infections in the first half of this year alone. "Xenophobia and false pride in Beijing's top echelon have delayed a solution. China for its own good, and the world's safety, must get serious about AIDS," the editorial concludes (San Francisco Chronicle, 8/30).