H.I.V. Tests Turn Blood Into Cash in China

The New York Times looks at a program instituted by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation which pays people to take blood tests for HIV:

On any given night, in 14 cities around the country, hundreds of people flock to makeshift blood collection centers in bars, bathhouses and apartments where workers test for syphilis and H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS. The ambitious testing initiative, started in 2007, is financed by the Bill & Melinda , which will spend $50 million over five years in an effort to slow the spread of AIDS in China. So far, more than 110,000 people have been tested.

But the Gates H.I.V. prevention program in China is unusual because it offers a financial incentive to those drawing the blood — about $9 per sample and an additional $44 for those that come back positive — which is shared with donors. The program has provoked a flurry of criticism from some established AIDS organizations that say the money has given rise to a network of fly-by-night groups whose only interest is collecting money.

Here in Tianjin, a northern city of 11 million people, two dozen organizations have sprung up in the past year, many of them run by bar owners or bureaucrats affiliated with the government. Some of the groups do not provide counseling to those giving blood and make little effort to help those who test positive get medical treatment.

“Gates has created a huge blood-buying operation that only cares about money, not about people,” said Ma Tiecheng, who runs a seven-year-old AIDS organization in the northwest city of Shenyang. “I’ve seen people getting four H.I.V. tests a day.”

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