Chinese Government’s Failure To Adequately Address AIDS Epidemic Contributes to HIV Spread, Report Says
The Chinese government is fueling the spread of HIV by refusing to provide treatment and information to its citizens and by failing to hold government officials accountable for blood collection practices that transmitted HIV to thousands of people in China, according to a Human Rights Watch report released yesterday, Reuters reports. The 94-page report, titled "Locked Doors: The Human Rights of People Living with HIV/AIDS in China," was based on more than 30 interviews with HIV-positive people, police officers, drug users and outreach workers in Beijing, Hong Kong and Yunnan province (Reuters, 9/3). The report found HIV prevalence rates among people who participated in a government-sponsored blood selection scheme to be between 4% and 40% across seven Chinese provinces, which have a combined total population of 420 million people. "This suggests that the number of persons with HIV is much higher than the one million cases the Beijing officially acknowledges," the report says (Parry, Agence France-Presse, 9/3). The report also said that HIV-positive people face discriminatory laws on both the national and local levels. Some local laws prevent HIV-positive people from entering public swimming pools or working in the food service industry. According to the report, HIV-positive people in China may also lack access to health care services and information on how to prevent HIV transmission (Wong, AP/Yahoo! News, 9/3).
The report recommends that the government increase HIV training for health care workers throughout China, enact legislation to protect HIV-positive people from discrimination and end the detention of injection drug users in forced detoxification centers (Reuters, 9/3). The report also recommends that the Chinese government conduct -- or ask the United Nations or another independent group to conduct -- a "full and impartial" investigation into local officials involved in blood collection practices and to compensate and offer treatment to people who contracted HIV through the programs (Agence France-Presse, 9/3). More than one million Chinese people may have contracted HIV through unsterile blood collection practices in government-sponsored blood donation programs (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 5/29/01). The report credited the government for showing a "greater willingness" to address the epidemic, including small-scale prevention projects and increased efforts on the part of leading reformers, according to Reuters. "Yet in practice, Beijing has thus far done remarkably little," the report said (Reuters, 9/3). In the first half of 2003, China experienced a 17% increase in newly reported HIV cases, U.N. Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Asia Nafis Sadik said Tuesday at the annual meeting of the U.N. Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, and the region could expect to have as many as 10 million cases by 2010, according to U.N. estimates (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 9/3).
Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Shen Guofang on Tuesday at the UNESCAP meeting said that the Chinese government was "contributing within its own capacity" to HIV prevention worldwide and was ready to cooperate with all parties to address the epidemic, Business Daily Update reports. Shen said that the government had set up 100 comprehensive prevention and treatment demonstration sites throughout the country and has pledged $10 million over the next five years to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. The UNESCAP meeting, attended by delegates from 62 member and associate member countries and territories, includes two ministerial roundtables on HIV/AIDS and the report of the U.N. Millennium Development Goals for Asia and the Pacific (Business Daily Update, 9/3). The session concludes today with the expected adoption of a report containing resolutions and a summary of the session's proceedings (Xinhua News Agency, 9/2).
Additional information on AIDS in China is available online from kaisernetwork.org's Issue Spotlight on AIDS.