Chinese Provincial Governments Hampering National Policies on HIV/AIDS, Washington Post Reports
Provincial and local governments in China are failing to implement national policies on HIV/AIDS, including the provision of no-cost HIV testing, counseling and antiretroviral drugs to low-income populations, the Washington Post reports.
According to the Post, some provincial and local government officials are reluctant to compensate HIV-positive people who contracted the virus through tainted blood transfusions. In addition, some officials are concerned that media reports surrounding HIV/AIDS could hinder investment in local economies. Experts have said the gap between national policies and local practices is the result of a system that makes community-based reform difficult. The central government has the ability to reduce the spread of HIV, but "control and corruption inherent in a one-party system prevent courts and state-run news media from uncovering abuses" in HIV/AIDS policies, the Post reports.
Hospitals in some areas of the country do not offer HIV tests and also deliberately misdiagnose HIV, according to experts and some people living with the virus. In Henan province, people who contracted HIV through tainted blood transfusions in the 1990s often are denied no-cost treatment promised by the national government and are turned away by the court when trying to seek compensation. Zhou Xihong, a lawyer who has worked with Henan families whose children are HIV-positive, said the Henan High People's Court does not process HIV cases. A man at Henan High People's Court, who was identified by his surname Wang, said the court had an unofficial policy that it does not hear HIV cases. He added that because Henan has so many HIV-positive people, it has "gone beyond hospitals' capability to compensate them." He added that the issue is the "business of the state government."
Many local governments are reluctant to allow not-for-profit HIV/AIDS groups to operate because such groups are not controlled by the central government, the Post reports. HIV/AIDS advocates also have said it is difficult to track money from international donors earmarked for HIV/AIDS groups. Wan Yanhai, an HIV/AIDS advocate and former official at the Ministry of Health, said that most of the funds are "taken away by government or government-controlled" nongovernmental organizations. He added that available funds are "far from enough to allow NGOs to have meaningful and comprehensive, preventative programs." Wan said the central government "should be very strict about implementing their [HIV/AIDS] policy," adding, "If they don't establish a transparent policy, how do you know that the money at a local level will be used properly?"
Gao Yaojie, a well-known HIV/AIDS advocate and retired physician who in March visited the U.S. to accept an award for her work in fighting HIV/AIDS, said, "The government's AIDS policy is superficial. It cannot really be implemented." She added, "There is a saying in the countryside. The village tells lies to the township government; the township tells lies to the county government; the county tells lies to the state council; the state council issues a document; the document is read by all levels of the government. After they finish reading it, they go into a restaurant, and the document is never put into practice."
According to HIV/AIDS experts, lack of action by provincial and local governments to curb HIV is contributing to an increase in the number of cases of the virus. There were 18,543 new HIV diagnoses reported in the first six months of 2007, nearly as many reported for all of 2006, according to the New China News Agency (Fan, Washington Post, 9/19).