China’s Blood Trade Contributing to Spread of HIV, Wall Street Journal Reports
The Wall Street Journal today examines the "blood-for-cash trade" in China, a country "on the brink" of an AIDS epidemic largely because of poor hygiene in blood sales. According to a recent report, China may have between 10 and 15 million HIV/AIDS cases by the end of the decade. With poor farmers in rural villages selling blood for a living, China's "ill-regulated" blood trade spreads deadly diseases, including AIDS and hepatitis C, and blood selling "remains an epidemic" despite pledges by the Chinese government to "stamp it out." Although a 1988 law mandates that voluntary blood donations should represent the majority of the blood supply and bans the "illegal collection of blood," the Journal reports that the government "exacerbate[s] the problem" by setting city blood quotas and requiring many employers to force employees to donate blood. However, cultural taboos often keep employees from voluntarily donating blood. Therefore, employers often turn to "blood heads" -- underground brokers who find blood sellers -- in order to avoid government penalties (Chang, Wall Street Journal, 11/14). However, the blood heads 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-positive individuals in China contracted the disease by selling their blood (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 1/12/01). While the health ministry is "well aware" of the country's blood supply "inadequacies," blood selling remains "a way of life" to the poor in urban areas and rural farming communities (Wall Street Journal, 11/14).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.