Recent reports in China's state media on special prison zones for HIV-positive prisoners have highlighted a growing problem for the country's criminal justice system, according to AIDS activist and whistle-blowing doctor Wan Yanhai. Here, he speaks to RFA's Mandarin Service about recent moves by the administration of President Xi Jinping to contain the epidemic in the prison population:
Q: Are you concerned about this prison facility specially for HIV-positive inmates in [the eastern province of] Jiangsu?
A: Yes. Recent reports said that a jail in Jiangsu has set aside a special area for the detention of HIV-position prisoners. There were other reports that said that of some 20 petty criminals arrested in Nanjing, half were already infected with AIDS. This shows that the problem of AIDS among convicted criminals is extremely serious.
Q: The Xinhua Daily reported that the facility in Jiangsu has held 269 prisoners since being set up in 2007.
A: Yes, and more than half of the detainees in Jiangsu are actually ethnic minority Yi people from [the southwestern province of] Sichuan.
Q: So, what is your concern regarding the special needs HIV-positive inmates in prisons and the treatment meted out to them?
A: The [ruling Chinese] Communist Party has been spinning this yarn for more than 60 years, that the police are full of love and care. In fact, it is nothing new. From a public health and prison management perspective, the setting up of segregated prison facilities for HIV-positive prisoners is very problematic.
The management and prevention of HIV/AIDS should be the same in prisons as it is outside them. In the early days [of the epidemic], China pursued a policy of segregation towards HIV/AIDS patients. But in 2004, the Infectious Diseases Law was amended, and segregated treatment was abolished. And yet the Chinese government still recommends that prisoners with HIV/AIDS be segregated within the prison system.
This system of segregated prison facilities exists across the whole country.
I believe that such policies will exacerbate people's fear of this disease, and the result over the long term will be more discrimination.
Reported by An Pei for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated by Luisetta Mudie.