China Treats AIDS as ‘Public Relations Problem,’ Journalist Says
Despite its recent AIDS conference, China "still doesn't understand the magnitude of the problem," freelance journalist Steve Friess writes in a Philadelphia Inquirer commentary. According to Friess, who writes on China for USA Today, China is more concerned with its public image than with "one of the most grave health crises in any nation's history." As evidenced by media exclusion and cancelled speeches at the conference, Chinese leaders are treating AIDS "as a public relations problem" and "not as a human problem," Friess states. He adds that because China has been silent on this issue in the past, "saying anything at all [about AIDS] exceeded the world's super-low expectations." Recalling from the conference the testimony of a man with AIDS, whose face was obscured by glow sticks, Friess insists that any in "a crowd of HIV-positive farmers" who were talking with journalists outside the conference "would have been more than happy to get up there and speak, sans glow sticks." Hiding the face of the speaker -- which many AIDS activists said was reminiscent of AIDS in the early 1980s -- was "completely unnecessary if the government wanted to destigmatize AIDS to the nation," he says. Calling Chinese officials' estimates that 600,000 citizens are currently infected "laughably low," Friess concludes that "[m]illions of people will die. The health care system will be stretched to its limits. The public will remain clueless about how it all happened and how to prevent it" (Friess, Philadelphia Inquirer, 11/26).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.