People With HIV/AIDS in China Remain ‘Largely Invisible’ Even as Government Attempts to Raise Awareness
The absence of people with HIV/AIDS from China's first national AIDS conference last week "highlights the political nature of the AIDS problem" in the country, as the "governing Communist Party wants to educate the public about a rapidly spreading disease, but is afraid of what might happen if people with HIV are permitted to speak freely and criticize the government," the Washington Post reports. According to the Post, if such people were allowed to speak to the media, there would be a "flood of complaints" about how the government has been slow to respond to HIV/AIDS, how the health care system is inadequate to treat those with HIV/AIDS and how the blood trade helped spread the virus through much of rural China. The blood trade, which may have infected "hundreds of thousands" in Henan province, was "off-limits" for discussion during last week's conference, and no papers on the topic were presented. Ignorance and misinformation about the disease remain common in China, where "[o]nly a fraction of the Chinese public understands AIDS or cares much about those with the disease," a fact that has aided the government's attempts to keep quiet reports of the epidemic. However, health workers caution that if more prevention information does not reach the general public and if the widespread discrimination against those with HIV/AIDS is not combatted more people will be infected. To raise awareness, the government will air a "carefully choreographed" television special on Dec. 1, World AIDS Day, that will tell the true story of Li Ziliang, a peasant with HIV who is battling discrimination. After being shunned by neighbors and losing his wife, party and government officials helped Li find his wife, and she returned home. Li appears onstage with his wife at the end of the story, the first time someone with HIV/AIDS has appeared in public in China without the government hiding their identity. However, reporters will not be allowed to interview Li at the government's insistence (Pan, Washington Post, 11/20).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.