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“The only thing necessary for these diseases to the triumph is for good people and governments to do nothing.”

 

China Discrimination Fuels HIV/AIDS Crisis
Investigation Urged into Blood Infection Scandal

Human Rights Watch

 hrw-news@topica.email-publisher.com


(Hong Kong, September 3, 2003) -- Widespread discrimination against
people with HIV/AIDS is fueling the spread of the epidemic in China,
Human Rights Watch charged in a new report released today.

Many people living with HIV/AIDS have no access to health care because
hospitals refuse to treat them. Human Rights Watch found that at one
hospital, the door to the AIDS clinic was actually padlocked.

National laws discriminate against people with HIV/AIDS, and some local laws
ban them from using swimming pools or working in food service. The
police send drug users to detoxification centers, where they are forced
to labor without pay to make trinkets for tourists.  Instead of
receiving help for their problem, they are driven underground, making
it harder for the government to combat the AIDS virus.

The 94-page report, "Locked Doors: The human rights of people living with
HIV/AIDS in China," is based on more than 30 interviews with people
with HIV/AIDS, police officers, drug users, and AIDS outreach workers
in Beijing, Hong Kong, and Yunnan province.

 



"Discrimination is forcing many people to live as outcasts, and the Chinese
government tolerates it instead of combatting it," said Brad Adams,
executive director of Human Rights Watch's Asia division. "That is sure
to make the AIDS crisis worse."

The Human Rights Watch report documents:

- The spread of HIV through unsafe state-run blood collection centers in
  seven provinces, the cover-up of the epidemic   by local officials, and
  the state's failure to provide treatment or hold officials accountable;
- Restrictions on freedom of expression, assembly, association and the right
  to information of those living with HIV/AIDS and those seeking to help
  them;
- Discrimination based on HIV status by government hospitals and government
  employees;
- Mandatory HIV testing in state facilities and violations of patient
  confidentiality; and
- Lack of access to treatment and other issues in China's underfunded and
  problem-ridden health care system.

In Yunnan province, Human Rights Watch researchers visited Southeast Asia's
largest forced detoxification center, where drug users live in crowded,
unclean cells without adequate food or clean water.  The centers test
drug users for HIV without their knowledge, do not inform those who
test positive, and do not offer treatment for HIV/AIDS

Chinese government documents obtained by Human Rights Watch show HIV
prevalence rates among blood donors ranging from four to forty percent
across seven provinces, provinces that have a combined total population
of 420 million.  This suggests that the number of persons with HIV is
much higher than the one million cases that Beijing officially
acknowledges.

Beijing has recently issued some positive policy statements about HIV/AIDS,
asserting the importance of non-discrimination in national action
plans. Some local legislatures, such as in Suzhou city, have passed
regulations to protect the rights of people with HIV/AIDS.  Small-scale
pilot AIDS education and prevention projects could be expanded and
successful laws and practices in Hong Kong could be studied on the
mainland.  But the Human Rights Watch report emphasizes that the
relatively small number of projects fails to address the scope of the
escalating AIDS crisis.

 



"SARS showed the importance of national leadership and a strong public
health system in fighting an epidemic," said Adams. "It is time for
Beijing to show the same resolve in helping people with HIV/AIDS."

The Chinese government continues to abet the local cover-up of one of
the world's greatest HIV/AIDS scandals, the Human Rights Watch report
shows. Chinese citizens in seven central provinces contracted HIV
through state-run blood collection centers, but few have received
treatment or compensation, and not a single official has been
prosecuted to date.

"It is time for China to confront the blood collection scandal," Adams
said.   "Beijing should authorize a full and impartial investigation
into the involvement of local authorities in the blood scandal, and
hold those responsible accountable.  If China can't do this, it should
ask the United Nations or another independent organization to establish
the facts."

China should immediately start providing compensation and treatment to
anyone who directly or indirectly contracted HIV/AIDS as a result of
the unprecedented blood collection scandal, Adams said.

Locked Doors: The Human Rights of People Living with HIV/AIDS in China is
available at: http://www.hrw.org/reports/2003/china0803

Accounts from Locked Doors: The human rights of people living with HIV/AIDS
in China:

Someone from the Center for Disease Control will call the work unit and
say "that person has AIDS"-and then the person gets fired.
Cao, international NGO staff person

The government should help us and give us space, space in the cities
and space in the countryside.  They should not discriminate against
us.  But this is easy to say and hard to do.  In the government, there
are many people who see us as garbage, as something they have to get
rid of to prevent their own loss of face.
Kong, drug user and person living with HIV/AIDS

I call up the hospitals first and tell them straight out that I'm positive.
They won't treat me ... When I get sick later, I might just leave.
I'll go somewhere far away, a nice place, and wait to die.
Ji, person living with HIV/AIDS

People who are HIV-positive need emotional support.  Many people, when
they find out they are HIV positive, suffer very much and are very
sad.  They have many needs-psychological, medical, and legal-but many
people just stay at home for years and years.
Zhang, AIDS activist