Guardian Examines Detention of 11 HIV-Positive People in China, Country’s Response to HIV/AIDS
London's Guardian on Friday examined the detention of 11 HIV-positive people in China and the country's response to HIV/AIDS (Branigan, Guardian, 4/18). On April 5, Chinese police allegedly beat, shocked and detained 11 HIV-positive protesters from the Shahe province who were hoping to attract Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's attention about their efforts to be compensated by a hospital where they allegedly contracted HIV through tainted blood in the mid-1990s, according to Beijing-based HIV advocate Wan Yanhai of the Aizhixing Institute. The protesters also were sprayed in the face with a substance that caused them to become unconscious, Wan said. They were then taken to a hospital and detained.
Wang Weijun, a friend of the protesters, said three women later were released after they agreed to drop their complaint against the government and not discuss the incident. The other protesters -- six men and two women -- did not agree to the conditions, Wang said (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 4/17).
According to the Guardian, the "incident says a lot about China's fight against HIV/AIDS" and the country's response to the epidemic. Although Chinese government officials have met with HIV-positive people, begun to address stigma and increased efforts to educate the public about HIV/AIDS, there are "shortcomings" that become "clear" when officials are asked about HIV/AIDS advocates and implementing HIV/AIDS strategies, the Guardian reports.
Wan said that although the government has supported education and awareness campaigns, it still has not addressed the people who contracted HIV through tainted blood in Henan province and other rural areas. Wan added that he does not believe the government will recognize the tainted blood situation because it does not want to admit to any errors. "The government has admitted there's an epidemic among people who sold blood but not among those who received it," Wan said, adding that the government "has not informed the public of the risk from blood transfusions and doesn't suggest" HIV testing.
According to Wan, the country's response to HIV/AIDS has made it difficult for advocates to tailor services to people living with the virus. The government provides funding to build infrastructure and provide public education but does not support direct work with people at high risk of HIV, according to the Guardian.
The "essential work" of educating high-risk groups about HIV prevention is left to nongovernmental organizations, which the government often restricts for security reasons, the Guardian reports. Wan added that the Aizhixing Institute recently implemented an emergency policy to protect staff, volunteers and clients ahead of the Olympic Games in August. He cited house arrest and surveillance of more than 100 HIV-positive people since December 2007, including the 11 who were detained earlier this month. Some civil society groups have said that security preparations for the Olympics have made officials increasingly suspicious of NGOs (Guardian, 4/18).