'I Have No Regrets'

Retired gynecologist Gao Yaojie works to expose China's AIDS problem.

2012.02.15
gao2011-305.jpg Gao Yaojie in New York, Nov. 6, 2011.
RFA

Gao Yaojie, 85, is a retired gynecologist and medical professor who fled China in August 2009. Now living in the United States, Gao is fighting ill-health to write books that expose the truth about AIDS in her home country. She spoke to RFA Cantonese service reporter Bi Zimo in a recent interview:

It is [just over] two years ... since I arrived in America. I have already had three books published, and I am working on two more. I do this all day, every day, and have been doing so for the past two years. I work at least four hours a day. Right now I am sorting through every one of my photographs and putting captions on them. I am incredibly tired every day. [Recently] I had a blood clot and my heart even stopped. I am taking medications.... I can't walk, and I have to use a wheelchair to get about.

On the question of my leaving China, I have no regrets, because if I were in China right now, I wouldn't be able to write about these problems. I am 85 years old. My time here is limited. I want to leave a record of the suffering of these people for future generations. Perhaps there will be some just people in future who will address these problems. It is my biggest comfort, to write these things down for future generations.

I don't have any other agenda. My only goal is to raise my voice on behalf of these disadvantaged people, because there is no one else to do it. The toiling masses don't know where their next meal is coming from; their social status is very low, and they have no education. If they die, they die, and they don't even know what disease killed them.... For me, a person should live their life and encourage others to live theirs.

If we only talk about our successes, then we will never improve our work. They did a good job in Wenlou village, Shangcai county, and they let everyone see that. They set it up as an example for everyone to see. But in reality, the other places aren't like [Wenlou] at all, so I never went to Wenlou.

AIDS orphans

The people in the rural villages I am most concerned about are the [AIDS] orphans and the [AIDS] patients. The patients are going to die, we know that, but what about their children? I want there to be fewer [HIV] infections and fewer orphans. I also want the orphans to go to school, and not become a burden on society. When the orphans write to me, I encourage them to work hard at school.

There is a huge problem with [AIDS] orphans right now. Their mental state is very poor. They hate schoolwork, and don't want to study. Out of 100 orphans, not even 10 will go to university. Partly because they are disadvantaged, but they also hate studying, because they think it's pointless. They just want to find a job and make lots of money. I ask them where they think a teenager with no education and no skills is going to make big money.  But they don't listen to me. Some of the [AIDS] orphans are turning to crime, stooping to robbery and petty theft, causing trouble for society. There are no statistics [for AIDS orphans]. The government fiercely resists [compiling any.] Some of them have grown up now, but there are younger ones appearing too. A lot of the younger ones have AIDS themselves. Some of them got it from blood transfusions, and some from mother-to-infant transmission.

Blood-selling stations

[The government's statistics are] rubbish. Right now there are at least 10 million people with HIV. Tiananmen mother Ding Zilin says she was able to count 202 dead bodies [from the 1989 military crackdown.] To that, I say that I counted 200,000 graves of people who died of AIDS.  One time they buried six people in a single day at a village I visited. The HIV virus is a different strain in China, and a lot of it is transmitted by the selling of blood. There are more than 10,000 blood-donor stations across China. They can't bring themselves to admit that HIV is being transmitted through blood transfusions ... so they insist it is sexually transmitted. In fact only around 10 percent of infections are through sex. Sixty percent of people who have sold blood have HIV.

Now, the selling of blood [for donation] has gone underground. No one dares to talk about it, and any talk of it is fiercely suppressed. There was a time when a newspaper wrote an article titled "Gao Yaojie, Where Are You?" because they had found blood-selling stations but they said that no one had the courage of Gao Yaojie to come out and talk about it.

Nationwide problem

It is worse in the South right now. I went to ... Hunan, Hubei, Yunnan, Guizhou, Guangdong, Guangxi, and Sichuan. There were a lot [of blood-selling stations] in Guangdong, in Jieyang. But the problem is a nationwide one. It's just that in the south, no-one makes a fuss about it, while a few people made a fuss about it in the north, so everyone thinks [the problem] is in the north. They're wrong. It is nationwide. Wherever you have blood-selling, you also have transfusion. It begins with the blood-sellers, then spreads to transfusions. Most of the people who get transfusions are in the cities.

But now there are even worse things happening. People are embezzling the aid money for AIDS patients. They are even corrupt with money for AIDS patients, even the dead ones. Everything has become more underhand, and it's gone underground. But it's still corruption. They have really cracked down in recent years on anyone who dares to speak out. In the places with the highest death rates, we could also soon see a time of famine.

Translated by Luisetta Mudie.

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