AIDS Activists Under Pressure

Hospitals in China often refuse treatment, leading to deaths, activists say.

china-hujia-latest-305.gif Chinese dissident Hu Jia at his home in Beijing, June 27, 2011.

Chinese authorities have stepped up surveillance of key AIDS activists ahead of World AIDS Day on Thursday, according to a prominent rights activist.

Hu Jia, who was released in June after serving a three-year jail term for "subversion," said he was concerned in particular for Henan-based activist Tian Xi.

"Around the time of World AIDS Day, there will always be some people with HIV who come to Beijing to petition," Hu said.

"If they come, and they get in touch with me, I will offer them some strategic help. For example, showing them some written materials," he said.

Hu said he had visited the health ministry on Sunday on behalf of Tian, who was handed a one-year jail term last year after he tried to highlight the plight of people living with HIV in poverty-stricken rural China.

"The state security police who follow me were using a hidden camera to videotape the whole process," Hu said.

He said he was helping Tian with his petition because he feared he would be jailed again.

"If [Tian] is put back in jail by the authorities, I don't think he will come out alive," said Hu.

Continuing harassment

Tian, 23, has faced continuing official harassment as he pursues a claim for compensation after he was infected with HIV through a tainted blood transfusion, Hu said.

"He has already served a year in jail for this ... and his mood is getting more depressed," Hu said, whose request to speak directly to health officials about Tian's case was recently turned down.

"They say we ... have to take the case to the complaints office ... which is the last place we'll find any solution," Hu said.

He said the last time he spoke with his health ministry contact by phone, he heard a rough voice in the background say "Put the phone down!"

"When I heard this I felt bad, because it's nearly World AIDS Day, and they really should take this more seriously," Hu said.

Tian, one of China's most outspoken AIDS patients, was detained outside the health ministry in 2009 after staging a protest on World AIDS Day.

Denied treatment

Tian said he wanted to draw the attention of China’s leaders to the suffering of people living with HIV in China.

Lawyers and civil rights activists say people with AIDS are constantly denied treatment in hospitals in China and have often died as a result.

Without heavy external pressure, children with AIDS are also denied entry into schools.

Official estimates put the number of people living with HIV in China at about 700,000, with around 85,000 people having full-blown AIDS, according to UNAIDS.

The HIV virus that causes AIDS gained a foothold in China largely as a result of unsanitary blood plasma-buying schemes and tainted transfusions in hospitals.

While health authorities say sex has overtaken drug use as the main cause of HIV infections in China, veteran activist and retired gynecologist Gao Yaojie has repeatedly said that infection-through-transfusion is a continuing scandal in poverty-stricken Hunan province.

Police have denied claims that the case against Tian was brought as a result of his campaign activities on behalf of people living with HIV.

Tian contracted HIV at the age of nine after a mild concussion following an accident, when he received a blood transfusion at the Xincai People's Hospital.

He was paid 30,000 yuan (U.S. $4,404) in compensation from his local township government, but has repeatedly called on the hospital to take responsibility as well.

Reported by Bi Zimo for RFA's Cantonese service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.

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