Chinese HIV/AIDS Advocate Gao Receives Award From Vital Voices for Efforts To Fight Disease
Chinese HIV/AIDS advocate and retired physician Gao Yaojie on Wednesday received the Vital Voices Global Partnership's Leadership Award for her efforts to fight the disease in the country, the Washington Post reports (Boustany, Washington Post, 3/15). Gao in the 1990s alerted people in the eastern province Henan of HIV cases that occurred through tainted blood transfusions. Gao also distributed material warning people of HIV and the risks of donating blood. In addition, Gao has distributed medicine to HIV-positive people, provided care for AIDS orphans and hosted people living with HIV/AIDS in her home. She also has written a book about the HIV/AIDS epidemic in China. Chinese authorities in 2001 and 2003 prevented Gao from traveling abroad to accept awards for her work. According to Gao's friend and Beijing-based AIDS advocate Hu Jia, Chinese authorities from Henan earlier this year told Gao not to attend the Vital Voices awards ceremony. When Gao refused, she was put under house arrest to prevent her from traveling to Beijing to apply for a U.S. visa, Hu said. However, Communist Party Deputy Secretary for Henan Chen Quanguo last month said that she would not be prevented from traveling to the U.S. to accept the award. Gao said she believed international pressure helped persuade Chinese authorities to allow her to travel to the U.S. (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 2/23). Chris Beyrer, professor of epidemiology at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, called Gao an "astute observer," saying "she made that clinical call that something unusual was underway and began investigating." Beyrer added, "This was the worst man-made disaster we had seen anywhere." According to Gao, she will continue to visit and help Chinese families affected by HIV/AIDS. She added that she does not "even think about" whether authorities will resume their harassment when she returns to China (Washington Post, 3/15). An Asia Society interview with Gao is available online.This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.