Chinese Premier Wen Spends Lunar New Year With HIV-Positive People
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao on Wednesday spent the Lunar New Year with HIV-positive people in the country's Henan province, where many of farmers in the early and mid-1990s contracted the virus through unsafe blood collection procedures, Agence France-Presse reports (Agence France-Presse, 2/9). The government-sponsored blood collection program paid farmers for their blood and sold it at state hospitals and private clinics. The Chinese government estimates that there are 840,000 HIV-positive people in the country and that 80,000 people have AIDS; however, the United Nations estimates that there are at least one million HIV-positive people in China. More than 500,000 officials and specialists in July 2004 began a survey project that aims to reach more than one million people in 18 cities and 35 counties in Henan to determine the number HIV-positive people in the province (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 9/14/04).
"I would like to take this opportunity to express my heartfelt sympathy with the nation's AIDS victims," Wen said on state-run television, adding, "Children have lost their parents because of AIDS, and old people have lost their sons and daughters. It has destroyed many families. But with the loving care of the Communist Party and the government, we have again established a sunny home." The state-run television report showed Wen shaking hands with an HIV-positive person and said that the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Henan has improved "greatly" over the past year, Agence France-Presse reports (Agence France-Presse, 2/9). Wen in November 2004 called for "greater, substantial efforts in creating public awareness about the issue and making strenuous efforts to curb the spread of HIV/AIDS." He said that China has made "remarkable progress" in its HIV/AIDS prevention and control programs but that the country is facing a "worsening crisis" with the epidemic (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 12/2/04).