Education Efforts, Working With Government Officials Key to AIDS Fight in China, Columnist Says
Despite facing "bullying and wheedling" by local officials in the Chinese province of Henan, HIV/AIDS advocates from the Beijing-based group Aizhi Action remained "surprisingly positive," an attitude that is needed to fight the AIDS epidemic, John Gittings writes in his Guardian column. According to Gittings, the advocates visited the village of Houyang, which is "suffering the consequences of grossly unhygienic" blood donation practices that occurred in the mid-1990s (Gittings, Guardian, 1/8). The country's blood trade received a "massive boost" in 1993 when foreign firms began to purchase Chinese blood. The clamor for blood resulted in the rise of "blood heads" -- dealers who pay individuals, many of whom are farmers, for their blood, and then sell the blood to hospitals or blood banks. The blood heads, however, often reused collection needles and often mixed blood from different patients, which they then reinjected into a patient's veins so he or she can donate again sooner. Chinese health experts have said they 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). The Aizhi Action members took supplies to Houyang, where local government officials told them that the AIDS epidemic is a "state secret." The advocates also found "inadequa[te] government aid" to fight the spread of the disease in the area, Gittings writes. Despite these reports, Gittings concludes that HIV/AIDS education should be a "top priority" and that "hostility and prejudice of local officials is a fact of life in rural China, but every possible way has to be tried to help people in desperate need" (Guardian, 1/8).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.