Tag Archives: AIDS

A Guest Post from Asia Catalyst on HIV and AIDS

The following is a guest post by Meg Davis, an anthropologist and the founder of Asia Catalyst.

China’s annual “two sessions” wrapped up this week, and Chinese lawmakers finally considered proposals to establish a national compensation fund for thousands of victims of the world’s largest HIV blood disaster.

Back in 2002, Elisabeth Rosenthal wrote in the New York Times that in Henan, “poverty begat AIDS, but AIDS has begotten previously unimaginable poverty.” For thousands who received tainted blood transfusions while local authorities covered up the epidemic, the compensation fund would be a life-changer.

While government officials maintain only 65,100 people contracted HIV through blood sales and transfusions, AIDS activists have long argued the true number is much higher. A new bilingual report by Asia Catalyst and Korekata AIDS Law Center finds that few of the thousands affected have been able to get compensation.

UNSAFE BLOOD COLLECTION

In the 1990s, state-sponsored, for-profit blood-collection centers used unsafe practices to spread HIV to thousands of people in Henan and other central provinces. Health officials who believed that foreign blood was tainted but that rural Chinese blood was “pure” promoted blood-sales as “glorious” for cash-strapped farmers. “Now [they say] I’m a criminal [because I sold my blood],” said Niu, a man in Henan.*

Back then, selling blood was a big pyramid scheme. Everyone went, you took me or I took you, friends took friends. …[Y]ou had 50 kuai in your pocket and you could get your kid something to eat. …We didn’t know we were going to get sick. If we knew that, who would have done it?

Many of those affected by the epidemic have demanded compensation and an apology for their suffering from hospitals, local authorities, and the courts. However, probably because they fear a deluge of lawsuits from tens of thousands of victims, most courts refuse to try these cases. When local authorities feel directly threatened by demands for compensation, political pressure on lawyers and courts leads to cases delayed, postponed or shut down.

A group of farmers in one province described how they were unable to find a lawyer even willing to represent them locally, and had to bring one in from another province. But that lawyer was run out of town by threats:

The government went through our provincial bar association to telephone our lawyer’s firm in the province where he lived, and told the firm to revoke his license. The blood center expert who came with our lawyer pleaded with him to go home that night.

Telling the luckless plaintiffs “Only you can solve your problems,” the lawyer fled town in the midst of a rainstorm, escorted by a protective group of the people he had failed to help.

Denied their right to sue, blood disaster victims try petitioning. Some have gotten small payouts, but many, including a group turned away from the Ministry of Health on World AIDS Day in 2011, have gotten threats, intimidation, and detention in “black jails.”

UNEVEN PAYOUTS

The report also examines cases where victims have gotten compensation, and finds that amounts have varied. In places like Heilongjiang where the number of people affected is relatively low, compensation has been high, ranging up to 400,000 CNY [~$63,492]. But in Henan and other areas where the disaster hit hardest, payments have been as low as 40,000 CNY [$6,394]. When the money is spent, often victims go back to petitioning and protesting again.

The uneven payouts have created more resentment. Fan, a blood disaster victim in Hubei, said,

Let me tell you, if you look around online, you’ll see that people who got hepatitis B, here in Hubei, they got paid 200,000 CNY [about US$31,750]. We got both hepatitis C AND AIDS, but we only got a couple ten thousand. So I asked the government, I said, if you kill one person you get the death sentence, but if you kill two people you’re not guilty? The more people you kill, the lighter the penalty. What kind of logic is that?

LEARNING FROM THE WORLD’S MISTAKES

Almost every country in the world has faced an HIV blood disaster early in the epidemic. AIDS denialism, the stigma surrounding the epidemic, and ignorance of how the virus was transmitted all contributed to the transmission of HIV through blood supplies. In many countries, the blood disasters affected a few dozen or a few hundred people. In Japan, France and Germany, victims numbered in the thousands. China’s blood disaster affected more individuals than in all other countries combined.

Some countries, such as Japan and France, reacted within a few years with investigations, compensation for the victims, and criminal penalties for officials responsible for the disaster. Others reacted more slowly and less decisively. But no country has taken as long to respond as China, where the blood disaster dragged on for years, while local officials fumbled in a failed effort to cover up the scope of the disaster.

The report calls for an independent investigation in order to obtain a reliable estimate of the number of people infected through the blood disaster. It makes detailed recommendations for a national compensation fund, and calls for a government apology.

For millions of Chinese citizens who still think of HIV/AIDS as a moral disease that stigmatizes those burdened with it, a national compensation fund and a public apology may also go a long way towards creating greater understanding about the epidemic, how it is transmitted and that it can be prevented. With a compensation policy, China has an opportunity to do tangible good on a longstanding social problem.

*All names were changed to protect interviewees against repercussions.

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AIDS Patient Tian Xi’s Arrest and Current Situation

Wang Keqin has uploaded a very long post as a follow up to his earlier post (link is to our translation) about Tian Xi, his young friend who had been arrested and denied access to vital medication that keeps his AIDS symptoms at bay. Tian Xi was inflected with HIV via blood transfusion in 1996, and has been struggling to get compensation and treatment from the government more or less ever since.

After speaking in his office with Tian Xi’s mother, he describes in detail the series of events that led to Tian Xi’s arrest. Translating from his post, here is a general timeline: ((Formatting and emphasis are ours, not in the original text. I have also skipped parts and rearranged others slightly to make it more concise and clear.))

  • July 23 – In Beijing, Tian Xi receives a text message from the Xincai county Party secretary Gu Guoyin. The basic message was: You’re a college student, you should know how to take care of things. Come home and we will resolve your problem. Come to my office and find me on Monday.

    Tian Xi’s father said, “when the Party secretary texted Tian Xi, that was the first response we’d gotten in six years of petitioning [for compensation for Tian Xi’s medical treatments]. We really thought the government wanted to help resolve things. Tian Xi returned home [to Xincai county] immediately.”

  • July 26 – On Monday, Tian Xi went to the Party secretary’s office as instructed, but was not able to see the secretary. A coworker said that secretary Gu was in a meeting.

    So Tian Xi sent Gu Guoyin a text to inquire about it. Secretary Gu responded that Tian Xi should wait another week and come to see him on the next Monday.

  • August 2 (morning) – The next Monday, Tian Xi went to the secretary’s office at 8:30 AM. But disappointingly, once again he failed to meet with secretary Gu, whose coworkers said that he was having another meeting.
  • August 2 (afternoon) – After leaving the the county Party committee building, Tian Xi went to the the Number One People’s Hospital, the place where he had been infected HIV via a tainted blood transfusion.

    “Tian Xi felt that he had been infected by the hospital, so the hospital couldn’t ignore him. So he said he would go to the hospital,” said Tian Xi’s father.

    Tian Xi went to the office of Hospital Director Li Junzhou hoping he could borrow some medicine [the supply he brought from Beijing was running out], and request compensation from the hospital. Director Li told him that if he had a problem, he should contact the county government, that the hospital didn’t manage that sort of thing, and to get out of his office.

    “Tian Xi was very angry,” his father said, “and he pushed the hospital directors things off of his desk and onto the floor. There was a computer, a fax machine, a phone, etc., later it was estimated at 3000 RMB of damage.”

  • August 5-6 – Tian Xi went twice more to the hospital director’s office. Director Li avoided him, locking his office door and refusing to let Tian Xi in. In a rage, Tian Xi used something to block the eyehole in the Director’s door.

    [Around 4 in the evening of the 6th,] shortly after Tian Xi got back from the hospital, he was taken away by police from the Gulv Town police substation. At that time, his mother was not informed why or about where he was being taken.

  • August 7 – [Tian Xi’s mother receives official word of his crimes and his detention via documents given to her by the PSB.] At around noon, his family picked him up and took him home [because] his detention was postponed. But they were carefully watched, and his mother could not even use a public bathroom on the street without an officer following her.
  • August 17 – At 6:00 PM, 20 police officers took Tian Xi away again. This time he was guarded by six men in the contagious disease room at the Number Two People’s Hospital; this continued for two days.
  • August 19 – At around 1 PM, Tian Xi was moved to the county jail, his family was not made aware.
  • August 22 – Tian Xi’s parents recieve a notice of detention four days later than the date written on the form: 8/18. In the place on the form that read “if the family was not notified of detention within 24 hours, please give a reason”, there was nothing written.
  • August 24 – [At 9 AM, Tian Xi’s family receives official notification of his arrest on charges of damaging commercial property. The form is dated 8/22, but the date of his arrest is written as 8/23.]
  • August 25 – According to Tian Xi’s lawyer Liang Xiaojun, he had already informed the Xincai county jail of his intent to appeal. [Tian Xi was also moved to the procuratorate]
  • August 26 – Liang Xiaojun and Tian Xi met face to face and discussed the details of the case.

Interestingly, it seems Tian Xi shouldn’t be in jail at all, though he did commit a crime. According to Liang Xiaojun, the damage he caused was estimated at around 4000 RMB, but the prerequisite for criminal detention for destruction of property is damage costing 5000 RMB or more.

The bigger problem, according to Tian Xi’s mother, is that he wasn’t carrying much medication on him when he was arrested, and as a result, his symptoms are flaring up to a degree she described as “critical”. They have appealed to the county to lend him some medicine. Tian Xi told his lawyers he had been stopped twice from taking medication, but that he could hold out for half a month on what he had left.

Obviously, Tian Xi’s destruction of the hospital director’s things was rash and illegal (although apparently not as illegal as it’s being treated). On the other hand, it’s understandable after six years of being given the runaround instead of being compensated.

AIDS Patient: “Return My Freedom! Return My Rights!”

The following is a translation of this post on Wang Keqin’s blog

Translation

At this moment, a scarce hour away from the 22nd international AIDS day, as I sit here writing this headline a friend of mine with AIDS is sitting in his home being watched by seven or eight people from the government. He sent a call for help by text message, saying “I’m being held in my hometown; I’ve lost my freedom!”

At the time I received the text in my office, I was receiving six representatives for over 140 people infected with AIDS and/or hemophilia who are seeking media attention, crying out: “please give us compensation and return our fundamental freedoms!”

Let’s talk about the friend with AIDS who’s lost his freedom. His name is Tian Xi (“Happiness Tian”); he’s got such a lively and joyful name, but his destiny seems less positive.

In 1995 [or perhaps ’96 or ’97, Wang Keqin’s post has contradictory dates and numbers in different places] in Gulv town in Henan province, 9-year-old Tian Xi accidentally got a slight concussion, and in the county hospital nearby, received blood transfusions.

[Wang Keqin goes into more detail, but long story short, Tian Xi had contracted HIV from the blood transfusion. Then Tian Xi takes over, giving his own account of more recent events.]

Treatment and compensation has been continuously delayed, there has been no effective resolution.

At 9 AM on the morning of November 11th, 2009, I was at a hospital with two female patients who also contracted HIV from blood transfusions presenting a petition asking for justice. At 11, I was called away by someone from the local health department, and a government official came and took me away. The two women (Zhao and Cao) were taken away by the police. I was taken to a Beijing guesthouse.

On the 22nd, I was taken back to my home from Beijing by someone from the local government, ostensibly for the purposes of negotiating a settlement.

From the 23rd to the 26th, I met with people from the bureau of health, the county head for the health bureau, an associate dean from the hospital where I was infected, but we still weren’t able to reach an agreement about treatment and compensation.

On the 26th, on a pedicab on my way to the station to return to Beijing, I was suddenly joined by two strangers, who took me to a red Changhe car with the license plate “豫QDA518” [豫 indicates it is a Henan plate], saying we’d first go to the Madian City Train Station and then go to Beijing together.

As we were about to move out of the county via the borderline tollbooth, the strangers got a call from Zhao Xinyue, the secretary of the Party discipline committee, and I was taken back into town.

That day, a man of uncertain identity turned up at the eastern entryway of the alley my house is in, and a black Santana [car] with the license plate 豫Q63007 follows and watches [me]. The red Changhe car is at the western entrance. Later I learned that they are people from the local government “protecting stability”, in total there are around ten watching me in shifts.

Now I’m without hope for effective treatment or just compensation, my freedom of movement has been constrained; the situation is that there’s no way for me to leave the county!

[Wang Keqin takes back over, writing a bit about Tian Xi’s character (good, charitable, gentle) and his worsening medical condition (“What I worry about most is whether he’s able to take medicine on time!”) He then writes:]

Tian Xi gave me the phone number for Li Heling, a local government leader: 15139646669. I called them, and they said, “We’re in the process of getting him treatment!” I said, he doesn’t have any medicine to take tonight. They said, “I don’t understand the situation, we will work on figuring it out tomorrow.”