Li Meets AIDS Activists as HIV Rates Rise
China’s Ministry of Health announced on Wednesday that HIV rates have risen through the first ten months of the year, according to Xinhua News:
From January to October, 16,131 new cases of HIV infections among citizens over 50 were reported, marking a year-on-year increase of 20.2 percent. There were also 9,514 new cases of HIV reported among young people aged 15 to 24, up 12.8 percent year on year, according to figures from the Ministry of Health (MOH).
The MOH said the HIV/AIDS epidemic is rampant in some locations and among certain groups of people.
In total, China reported 492,191 cases of HIV/AIDS by the end of October, and 68,802 of these were new cases reported this year, according to the MOH.
Incoming Premier Li Keqiang presided over a meeting of the State Council commission on HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment on Monday, according to Xinhua News, and said that the government should spend more on anti-AIDS efforts. Reuters reports that he also met with non-governmental HIV/AIDS groups and promised to let them play a bigger role in fighting the epidemic:
“You have a greater understanding of what sufferers want … the government will continue to offer support and pay even greater attention to and listen more closely to the voices of civil society groups and you will be given greater space to play your role,” state television cited him as saying.
It also showed pictures of Li shaking hands with sufferers, in a country where discrimination against people with HIV/AIDS is rampant, even in the health-care community.
The South China Morning Post also pointed out the sensitive link between the issue of HIV/AIDS and Li’s career:
The issue was also behind one of the biggest black marks on Li’s career: efforts to cover up a massive HIV outbreak in Henan province in the late 1990s when Li was governor.
Tens of thousands of farmers contracted HIV from tainted blood acquired through government blood-donation schemes in the early and mid-1990s. Although Li was not involved in the programme, his muzzling of the media and crackdowns on protests were controversial.
“Now that he’ll be the next premier, he’s apparently aware of such a blemish in his résumé which subjects him to scrutiny,” said Liu Yige, a legal specialist with the Aids activist group Love, Knowledge and Action. “He’s also aware of the high expectation for him to become a reform-minded premier, so he needs to work on something to prove that to the world.”