Chinese Government Not Enforcing Legal Requirement To Test Blood, HIV/AIDS Advocate Says
The Chinese government is not enforcing a nationwide mandate that requires HIV testing for blood used in transfusions, Wan Yanhai, head of the Beijing Aizhixing Institute of Health Education, said on Tuesday at a news briefing in Beijing, Reuters reports (Blanchard, Reuters, 2/21). China's Ministry of Health in December 2005 announced new rules that will punish people for collecting and distributing untested blood that leads to people becoming infected with bloodborne diseases such as HIV through subsequent transfusions. The rules -- which will take effect in March -- are intended to enforce a 1998 ban on blood sales and also will make collection centers responsible for the safety of donated blood. Although the 1998 ban reduced the number of blood-collection organizations operating in the country, about 350 such groups currently operate and allegedly remain motivated by profit (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 12/22/05). "There's been no official statement about blood transfusions or the blood products-related AIDS epidemic," Wan said in a letter to the health ministry. He said, "In many places, the blood is not tested," and people do not know they have been exposed to the virus. "It's a hidden epidemic," Wan added. Wan also called for the health ministry to offer HIV tests at no charge to people who have received blood transfusions in China since 1987, when HIV/AIDS first appeared there. According to Reuters, about 11% of the estimated 650,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in China acquired it through blood transfusions (Reuters, 2/21).
Officials in Urumqi, the capital of China's Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, are planning to establish 44 new needle-exchange centers in 2006 to stem the spread of HIV/AIDS among injection drug users in the region, a municipal health bureau official announced recently, Xinhuanet reports. According to Xinhuanet, there were 11,303 reported HIV/AIDS cases in Xinjiang at the end of September 2005, and Urumqi residents accounted for about 40% of the cases. The needle-exchange centers are part of a Sino-Australia AIDS Prevention Project, which was launched in November 2004. The needle-exchange centers have dispensed 17,000 clean needles since the program's initiation, according to Xinhuanet (Xinhuanet, 2/21).