Chinese AIDS Advocate Under House Arrest To Prevent Meeting With U.S. Delegation Visiting Henan Province
Chinese AIDS advocate Hu Jia on Wednesday said that Chinese government authorities have placed him under house arrest to prevent him from meeting with a U.S. Embassy delegation while it is visiting Henan province, which has one of the world's highest HIV prevalence rates, the AP/Long Island Newsday reports. Hu said that police on Monday stopped him from leaving his home and that police have watched him "round-the-clock" since last weekend, according to the AP/Newsday. Hu said he had planned to meet with the U.S. delegation on Friday in Shangcai, a village in Henan province (Ang, AP/Long Island Newsday, 5/26). Henan province gained international attention in the early 1990s after it was discovered that farmers there were among hundreds of thousands of poor Chinese who contracted HIV through a government-sponsored blood collection program. The program paid farmers for their blood and sold it at state hospitals and private clinics. Chinese officials have been reluctant to openly discuss HIV/AIDS because they fear being blamed for the epidemic and because of a possible negative response from foreign investors (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 3/15). Hu said that police on Wednesday told his mother that they did not want him to go to Henan and instead arranged for him to travel to Anhui province from May 29 to June 10 accompanied by two officers, the AP/Newsday reports. The U.S. Embassy confirmed that a delegation would be visiting Henan on Friday but did not provide details, the AP/Newsday reports. In addition, the Beijing Public Security Bureau did not answer calls for comment, according to the AP/Newsday (AP/Long Island Newsday, 5/26). The Chinese government estimates that there are 840,000 HIV-positive people in the country and that 80,000 people have AIDS; however, some experts believe that those figures are an underestimate. The United Nations estimates that there are at least one million HIV-positive people in China (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 3/15).
U.N. Envoy Praises China's New 'Openness' on HIV/AIDS
In related news, U.N. Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Asia Nafis Sadik on Thursday praised the "significant steps" the Chinese government recently has made to increase "awareness at the highest level" and said that China is "making strides" to reach the level of openness about the disease exemplified by Thailand, Reuters reports (Vidaillet, Reuters, 5/27). The Chinese government earlier this month announced a new nationwide effort to combat HIV/AIDS, including the provision of free antiretroviral treatment to reduce the risk of mother-to-child HIV transmission and the implementation of a new HIV/AIDS awareness campaign. The plan calls for AIDS education to be included in all middle school, vocational school and college curricula. According to the plan, HIV/AIDS prevention posters will be displayed at entertainment venues, and medical workers will be required to discuss HIV/AIDS prevention methods such as condom usage with patients (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 5/10). "China is definitely moving in the right direction," Sadik said, adding, "They are not at the level of Thailand yet, but they will be." UNAIDS Executive Director Peter Piot said this week that Chinese AIDS advocates have been "muzzled or detained in the past for speaking out," according to Reuters. However, he added that China recently has undergone a "sea change" in confronting the disease, Reuters reports (Reuters, 5/27).