September 3, 2003
In a report released today, New York-based Human Rights Watch called on the Chinese government to launch a full and impartial investigation into the blood collection scandal that infected millions of people with HIV. And if Beijing is unable to investigate the matter, the UN should be invited to establish the facts, HRW said in its 94-page report.
Citing Chinese government documents it has obtained, HRW said the number of people with HIV is far higher than the government admits. The documents show prevalence rates among blood donors ranging from 4 percent to 40 percent across seven provinces with a combined population of 420 million. "This suggests that the number of persons with HIV is much higher than the 1 million cases that Beijing officially acknowledges," said the report, "Locked Doors: The Human Rights of People Living with HIV/AIDS in China."
"It is time for China to confront the blood collection scandal," said Brad Adams, executive director of HRW's Asia division. "Beijing should authorize a full and impartial investigation into the involvement of local authorities in the blood scandal, and hold those responsible accountable."
Also fueling the spread of the epidemic is widespread government-tolerated discrimination, the report said, which is driving HIV/AIDS patients underground instead of helping them. Some local laws ban HIV patients from public pools or jobs in the food industry. Many people with HIV/AIDS have no access to health care because hospitals refuse to treat them, said the report, which is based on more than 30 interviews with patients, police officers, drugs users and AIDS outreach workers.
Beijing has recently issued statements promoting non-discrimination in national policy and introducing small-scale AIDS prevention efforts, but the report said these actions have failed to address the scope of the crisis.