Chinese Officials Call Human Rights Watch Report on HIV/AIDS ‘Inappropriate’
Chinese officials on Thursday said that a recent report issued by Human Rights Watch criticizing the Chinese government's response to HIV/AIDS is "inappropriate," Reuters reports (Reuters, 9/4). 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. 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 that Beijing officially acknowledges," the report says. The report also said that HIV-positive people face discriminatory laws on both the national and local levels. 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 (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 9/4). Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Kong Quan said, "The central government pays great attention to the defense against, prevention and treatment of AIDS in China. On this issue, it should be said that the overall cooperation between the Chinese government and the international community has been effective and we will continue it" (Reuters, 9/4).
Kong added that there had been "some problems" with blood collection stations in Henan province, Agence France-Presse reports (Agence France-Presse, 9/4). As many as two million HIV-positive individuals who were infected through unsafe blood collection practices may live in Henan province, according to the China AIDS Solidarity Network, a group of mainly U.S.-based public health experts. 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. The United Nations has said that China could have 10 million people living with HIV by 2010 (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 8/20). HRW Executive Director Brad Adams said, "It is time for China to confront the blood collection scandal," adding, "Beijing should authorize a full and impartial investigation into the involvement of local authorities in the blood scandal, and hold those responsible accountable." But Kong said that the "concentrated spread of the AIDS epidemic has been contained" in Henan. "However, the consequences of the spread are quite severe. We have invested heavily in this endeavor and it has shown the determination of the Chinese government in dealing with this issue," Kong said (Agence France-Presse, 9/4).