Religious Leaders Discussing HIV/AIDS With Residents in China Arrested for ‘Illegal’ Gathering
Police on Monday arrested 29 religious leaders in China's Henan province for holding an "illegal religious gathering" that the U.S.-based China Aid Association said was meant to spur discussion about HIV/AIDS among local residents, the Associated Press reports. CAA on Wednesday in a news release said the religious leaders met to discuss assistance for HIV-positive residents who became infected through blood transfusions (Associated Press, 12/14). Hundreds of thousands of people in China in the early and mid-1990s contracted HIV through unsafe blood collection procedures. Although the country outlawed blood sales in 1998 and reduced the number of blood collection organizations operating in the country, about 350 such groups currently operate and allegedly remain motivated by profit. China's Ministry of Health last week announced new rules that will take effect in March and will "severely punish those responsible" for collecting and distributing untested blood that leads to people becoming infected with bloodborne diseases such as HIV (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 12/6). According to a police official who only provided his surname, Hu, the police received a report that "70 or 80 people were having an unauthorized [religious] gathering." He added, "Police went there and took some of them to the police station for questioning, but now they are all free" (Associated Press, 12/14). CAA on Wednesday confirmed that all of the leaders had been released on Tuesday "after intensive interrogations and heavy international media and U.S. government pressure" (BosNewsLife News, 12/14).
AIDS Patients Seen on TV With Chinese President Face Discrimination
Two AIDS patients who were seen on television with Chinese President Hu Jintao in November 2004 said they now face discrimination from neighbors and acquaintances in Shanxi province, Reuters/Yahoo! Asia News reports (Reuters/Yahoo! Asia News, 12/14). The president last year appeared on state-run television shaking hands with AIDS patients -- the first time a Chinese president has done so -- less than a week after Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao in a statement called for "greater, substantial efforts in creating public awareness about the issue and making strenuous efforts to curb the spread of HIV/AIDS" (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 12/2/04). According to a state newspaper, since Xiao Wei and Lao Ji, both pseudonyms, were shown repeatedly on television shaking hands with the president, residents of their village have harassed them and their families. "Local officials came to ask Xiao Wei's landlord to expel his family lest the whole village get infected," the newspaper said. Lao's wife, who is HIV-negative, said, "I cannot forgive them. It's as though we've been sentenced to death by the villagers" (Reuters/Yahoo! Asia News, 12/14).