AIDS Activism: Bad Blood

Following protests in Zhengzhou last month in which some 300 AIDS patients and supporters toppled the gate of a government compound, The Economist explains the roots, challenges and particular sensitivity of AIDS activism in China:

“The government is procrastinating, covering up and clamping down,” says an activist who joined the protest in the provincial capital, Zhengzhou, on August 27th. His son was found to be infected with HIV, the virus which causes AIDS, at the age of six after a blood transfusion at a Beijing hospital a decade ago. Many of the other participants were infected in government-backed blood-selling schemes in the 1990s. Donors, mostly poor farmers, were re-infused with pooled blood once its plasma had been removed. Tens of thousands contracted HIV this way. The government has never admitted responsibility.

[…] The man who is preparing to take over as China’s prime minister, Li Keqiang, has particular reason to prefer that Henan’s AIDS crisis is dealt with quietly. Mr Li was the province’s governor and then party chief between 1998 and 2004. Although the blood-selling infections mostly occurred before he arrived, Mr Li, who is now deputy prime minister, is widely blamed by activists in Henan for maintaining tight controls on media coverage of the calamity and for the harassment of whistle-blowers by police.


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