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Henan HIV/AIDS Victims Banned from Petition to Chinese Government

A group of citizens from Henan province, who have accidentally infected with HIV/AIDS in a government blood sales scheme, were banned from petitioning for compensation.
( [email protected] ) Mar 15, 2006 07:11 PM EST

A group of citizens from Henan province, who have accidentally infected with HIV/AIDS in a government blood sales scheme, were banned from petitioning for compensation.

A total of 23 cases of complaints were documented. More than 20 Chinese civil society organizations reported that numerous people infected with HIV/AIDS in Henan were stopped from bringing their petitions to the National People's Congress, which opened in Beijing on March 5. People have been confined to their homes and monitored for 24 hour by police outside their doors, the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported.

Those petitioners are victims of the 1990s blood scheme backed by the provincial authorities in the poverty-stricken Henan. Hundreds of thousands of low-income farmers sold their blood, from

which lucrative plasma was isolated and sold on the global market.

According to HRW, to prevent anemia among those who donated blood frequently, the red cells left when the plasma was separated from the blood were pooled and re-injected into the donors' arms without being screened for HIV or other blood-borne diseases. As a result, many people are contracted with the deadly virus through unfiltered blood transfusions. Henan Province has become an area of China seriously hit by AIDS.

"People infected with HIV through unsafe practices at government clinics have routinely been denied medical treatment and compensation," said Brad Adams, Asia director of Human Rights Watch. "Now they can't even tell their story to policymakers who might be able to help."

Joseph Amon, director of Human Rights Watch's HIV/AIDS Program added, "The current house arrests follow earlier reports of police abuse and arrest of people with HIV/AIDS in Henan who sought treatment and compensation."

On the other hand, earlier report on March 8 by Reuters revealed a very different story about the treatment of the authorities to Henan HIV/AIDS victims. Song Xuantao, the Communist Party chief for the municipality of Zhu Madian in Henan, told reporters that all 7,800 HIV carriers found in a 2003 screening were being offered free treatment and were receiving allowances.

While acknowledged the negligence of the authorities over proper blood transfusion procedures in the 1990s blood scheme, Song said today the government had spent around 10,000 yuan ($1,250) a year on each patient's treatment and subsidized the victims' housing, food and their children's education, Reuters reported.

Chinese AIDS activists still have accused the Chinese government of not doing enough, according to Reuters. The issue has also drawn international concern.

HRW reported that some Chinese national health officials met for the first time with nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) seeking some assurance that those infected in the blood scheme would be compensated in December. No commitments were made, but when NGOs reported that the courts in Henan would not even hear cases of people with HIV/AIDS seeking compensation.

Health Minister Gao Qiang was quoted in the international press as saying that the courts should admit those cases and make fair judgments, HRW said.

Whether or not can the compensation be successfully granted, some Christian organizations have already reached out to the HIV/AIDS victims in Henan to offer them necessary support.

The Amity Foundation, which works closely with the official Three Self Patriotic Movement Protestant churches, have started to pay attention to the HIV / AIDS issue in China in the early 1990s. AIDS prevention and awareness education was launched in Henan since 2000 in collaboration with local churches.

Church leaders, lay workers and church volunteers have attended some training courses and passed on what they learned to their communities afterwards. A 2004 report showed that the AIDS prevention awareness rate has increased and people's attitudes towards people living with HIV/AIDS have changed significantly as well.