Reuters Profiles "AIDS Village" in China's Henan Province

Reuters on Monday examined an "AIDS village" in China's Henan province, where approximately 900 of the village's 3,800 people are HIV-positive. More than 30% of the people living with HIV in the village of Shuang Miao contracted HIV through a government-sponsored blood collection program (Liu, Reuters, 3/15). In the early 1990s, hundreds of thousands of poor Chinese farmers contracted HIV through the program, which paid them for their blood and sold it at state hospitals and private clinics. Chinese officials have been reluctant to openly discuss HIV/AIDS because they fear being blamed for the epidemic and fear the response from foreign investors (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 2/19). More than 1,200 people in Shuang Miao "regularly" sold their blood for $5 per visit, according to Zhu Jingzhong, an HIV-positive farmer who became an "informal" HIV/AIDS advocate in 2000. He added, "It was like an atomic bomb went off. Villagers started dying at the same time. Some committed suicide when they found out [their HIV status.]" Chinese government officials have said that they will begin providing antiretroviral drugs to HIV-positive people in villages similar to Shuang Miao throughout the country, but villagers have said that "real benefits have yet to trickle down to them," Reuters reports.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said that the country's public health system needs to be strengthened to address the HIV/AIDS epidemic, according to Reuters. He added, "We need to maintain a high degree of vigilance and take firm and effective measures to control [severe acute respiratory syndrome], AIDS" and other diseases. Speaking at the launch of CDC's Global AIDS Program in Beijing, Qi Xiaoqiu, director general of the Chinese Health Ministry's Department of Disease Control, said, "We do plan to procure foreign-made [anti]retrovirals, but that will take some time" (Reuters, 3/15). CDC earlier this month launched a five-year, $15 million campaign to fight HIV/AIDS in 10 provinces in China. Under the new China program, the U.S. CDC office in China and China's Center for Disease Control and Prevention will work together on HIV prevention, treatment and support programs. The grants will be used for programs in Anhui, Guizhou, Xinjiang, Heilongjiang, Inner Mongolia, Tibet, Guangdong, Shanghai, Beijing and Henan provinces. The Chinese government estimates that there are 840,000 HIV-positive people in the country and that 80,000 people have AIDS; however, some experts believe that those figures are an underestimate. The United Nations estimates that there are at least one million HIV-positive people in China, and the number could grow to 20 million people by 2010 (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 3/2).

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