AIDS Patient Dies While Husband Detained

An AIDS petitioner says he was refused permission to see his wife in hospital.
2012-03-13
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A man gets a free AIDS test during an event to mark World's AIDS Day in Chongqing, Dec. 1, 2011.
AFP CHINA XTRA

A Chinese AIDS patient took local authorities to task Tuesday for placing him in detention while his wife languished in hospital and died of the disease.

Chen Guolu had traveled to Beijing on Feb. 28 in an attempt to petition the National People’s Congress, or parliament, about the mistreatment of AIDS patients, including he and his wife who had contracted the disease through blood transfusion.

But a day later, security personnel from his hometown in Linying county in central Henan province forcibly repatriated him and locked him in a detention center for 10 days.

Blood transfusion has been a typical means of transmission of the HIV virus that causes AIDS in Henan, which has the largest AIDS population of all Chinese provinces.

During his detention, Chen said, the township chief told him that his wife, Song Xiuchun, was in good health.

“When they locked me up in the detention center I protested, telling them that both my wife and I were very sick. But the official said my wife was healthy and that there were two medical workers and a doctor taking care of her,” Chen said in an interview on Tuesday after his release.

“They confined me for several days, during which time my son called the township chief many, many times. But he wouldn’t answer the phone. Then, my son went to the detention center and applied for a meeting with me but the authorities refused him,” he said.

“At last, my wife was sent to the emergency room. It was only then that I was released from the detention center. But when I finally rushed to the hospital last Saturday afternoon, my wife was already in the morgue.”

“This is murder.”

Chen Haichao, the couple’s son, described pleading with authorities to release his father.

“I begged them to let my dad out for several days so he could accompany my mom to the hospital. But they wouldn’t talk to me,” the son said.

“My dad didn’t even get the chance to say a single word to my mom when she passed away. Now she has been in the morgue for three days but no township cadre ever went to see her,” he added.

Transfusion troubles

Henan-based AIDS activist Chang Kun said Chen’s tragedy was just a small example of the treatment people who suffer from the disease in the central province receive at the hands of the authorities.

“We are pushing for concrete measures to improve the situation of AIDS patients in Henan, but it is very difficult.”

Ahead of International AIDS day in December, retired gynecologist and former medical professor Gao Yaojie, currently living in the United States, hit out at official Chinese AIDS statistics as "rubbish," saying the majority of infections come from a network of thousands of blood-selling and transfusion clinics across the country.

Earlier, Chinese health authorities had said they expected the number of people living with HIV/AIDS to reach 780,000 by the end of 2011, a figure Gao called extremely low.

And the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in December that infection rates are climbing fast among older people and college students, blaming unsafe sexual intercourse.

Gao dismissed the report, saying that only around 10 percent of HIV infections are transmitted through sex.

She estimates that there are currently more than 10,000 blood-selling stations across China, in all regions of the country.

Reported by Xin Yu for RFA’s Mandarin service. Translated by Ping Chen. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.