U.S. Public Health Experts Send Letter to Chinese Premier Protesting Arrest of HIV-Positive Farmers
The China AIDS Solidarity Network, coalition of AIDS activists, human rights groups, students and professors working in solidarity with Chinese AIDS activists, has sent an open letter to Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao urging the release of seven farmers arrested in a dispute over HIV/AIDS treatment and criticizing the country for the way it is handling the epidemic, Agence France-Presse reports. The letter, which was signed by 41 researchers and professors from major universities, said that China is "shooting itself in the foot" by detaining people who are advocating for improved national AIDS policies, according to Agence France-Presse (Agence-France Presse, 8/5). In one incident, hundreds of police officers in June raided the Chinese village of Xiongqiao in the rural province of Henan, moving through homes, physically abusing residents and arresting 13 people in what villagers said was a response to recent protests calling for better access to medical care, including HIV/AIDS treatment (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 8/4). Of the 13 farmers originally jailed, seven remain in custody, including five HIV-positive individuals, according to Agence France-Presse. "The harassment of people with HIV/AIDS and their advocates diminishes China's ability to halt its AIDS epidemic, which is advancing rapidly and threatens to rival the epidemics in Africa and India in the near future," the letter said. The United Nations estimates that last year China had approximately 1.5 million HIV-positive people in 2002, but many health officials say that the true figure could be "much higher," according to Agence France-Presse. The United Nations has said that China could have 10 million people living with HIV by 2010. In October 2002, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said that China "stands on the brink of an explosive AIDS epidemic" and must act immediately to stop a potential "catastrophe," Agence France-Presse reports (Agence-France Presse, 8/5).
Additional information on AIDS in China is available online through kaisernetwork.org's Issue Spotlight on HIV/AIDS.