Interview: China Probes Henan AIDS Scandal, 20 Years Later

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Chinese HIV/AIDS activist Wan Yanhai speaks at a briefing on Capitol Hill in Washington on Jan. 19, 2011.
Chinese HIV/AIDS activist Wan Yanhai speaks at a briefing on Capitol Hill in Washington on Jan. 19, 2011.

The ruling Chinese Communist Party has sent inspection teams to the central province of Henan to investigate the cause of a massive AIDS epidemic among poverty-stricken rural communities who took part in the blood-selling schemes of the 1990s, according to AIDS activist and whistleblowing doctor Wan Yanhai. He spoke to RFA's Mandarin Service about recent moves by the administration of President Xi Jinping to face up more fully to the scandal of AIDS in Henan.

Q: A survey carried out by the Henan provincial government in 2004 found that there were 25,000 people living with AIDS in the province. Is that figure accurate?

A: That figure is problematic. Actually, the true number of those infected is much, much higher than that.

There are several hundred people staying in a hotel as guests of a central government investigation team. They are whistleblowing on the Henan provincial health department and on Liu Quanxi.

There are others who are making reports about them via the Internet.

Q: What does Henan's AIDS problem have to do with Liu Quanxi?

A: When Liu Quanxi was director of the Henan health department 20-odd years ago, they were running blood clinics and organizing rural communities to sell blood as part of the health ministry's blood collection policy.

Back then, there were 200-300 blood donation centers run by the Henan government.

During the process of pooling the blood, cross-infection occurred, which meant that a lot of people were infected with HIV.

When the Henan health department found out about this problem, they covered it up.

Q: There are some non-government groups in China who are calling for an investigation into the Henan health department and into its former chief, Liu Quanxi, regarding their responsibility for the AIDS problem that arose from blood-selling by rural communities. But some doctors did produce evidence that this was happening at the time, didn't they?

A: Yes, they did. Wang Shuping and other doctors spoke out about this, but the Henan health department didn't take them seriously. In fact, all of these doctors who discovered the AIDS problem were persecuted.

This was a serious dereliction of duty by Liu Quanxi.

Professor Gui Xi'en of Wuhan also discovered there was an AIDS problem in Henan, but he was driven away by the Henan authorities.

Then there was Dr. Gao Yaojie, who was place under house arrest and surveillance after she repeatedly spoke out about the AIDS issue.

Reported by An Pei for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated by Luisetta Mudie.





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