Saturday, March 11, 2006
AIDS ACTIVISTS UNDER ATTACK IN CHINA - WHAT ELSE IS NEW
As it prepares for the annual meeting of its parliament, China is launching a crackdown on one of its poorest and most vulnerable groups: people infected by the AIDS virus. A growing number of AIDS patients have been among those targeted by police in advance of government meetings in recent years. China officially reports that it has about 650,000 cases of AIDS and HIV, but many independent experts believe that China has at least 1.5 million cases and could have 10 million cases within the next few years if nothing is done. But hey, why worry when you have the fastest growing economy in the world.
The following is an AFP report from the Khaleej Times.
China puts 23 HIV/AIDS patients under house arrest
China has put 23 HIV/AIDS patients under house arrest to prevent them from travelling to Beijing to seek redress during the annual session of parliament, a rights group said on Saturday.
The patients are victims of a blood purchasing scheme condoned by the government in the 1990s which has left tens of thousands infected with the HIV virus and has killed thousands in recent years.
The 23, all in the AIDS-stricken central province of Henan, have been confined to their homes during the National People’s Congress meeting, which opened in Beijing on March 5, the New York-based Human Rights Watch said.
Police were outside their doors monitoring them around the clock, HRW said in a statement.
“People infected with HIV through unsafe practices at government clinics have routinely been denied medical treatment and compensation,” said Brad Adams, Asia director of Human Rights Watch.
“Now they can’t even tell their story to policymakers who might be able to help.”
HRW’s report followed a similar one by the Beijing Aizhixing Institute of Health Education.
Members of an organization of people living with HIV in Henan’s Ningling county were also prevented from attending a training session on HIV-prevention strategies because they had been put under house arrest, Aizhixing said.
In Henan’s Suiping county, the director of a home for children whose parents are ill or died from HIV/AIDS has had to close his orphanage because of his house arrest and find other ways to care for the children.
In the 1990s, local officials, with the knowledge of the central government, encouraged poor farmers to sell their blood, from which plasma was isolated and sold to companies that made blood products.
Unsanitary methods were used to collect the blood, causing widespread infections.
Beijing acknowledged the problem and began providing free drugs to patients a few years ago, but many victims lack adequate medical care and need help with living expenses.
Efforts to seek compensation from courts have been unsuccessful as courts turn down such cases.
Meanwhile, Beijing-based AIDS activist Hu Jia remains missing after more than two weeks. He was believed to have been arrested after organizing a hunger strike against police brutality towards rights activists.