News / Asia

AIDS Patients Face Discrimination at China Hospitals

An infected patient's bed at the HIV/AIDS ward of Beijing YouAn Hospital, Dec. 1, 2011.
An infected patient's bed at the HIV/AIDS ward of Beijing YouAn Hospital, Dec. 1, 2011.
VOA News
China’s fight against the spread of AIDS has seen marked progress in some areas over the past decade, but the social stigma that the virus carries continues to be a major obstacle. Individuals who contract the virus not only face challenges in society, work and school, but in getting medical treatment as well.

The recent case of a 25-year-old man from the coastal city of Tianjin is one high profile example. The man, who goes by the name of Xiaofeng (not his real name) says he had to alter his medical records to hide the fact that he was HIV-positive to get treatment for lung cancer.

His case has been widely reported in Chinese media and sparked a public outcry both in the press and online.

Not a haven

Liu Wei, a public interest lawyer who defends people discriminated against because of HIV/AIDS says Xiaofeng's case is not unique.

“In the past staff in hospitals would just say that they denied treatment because the patient had AIDS,” she says. “Now they find excuses, such as that they are not equipped for surgeries on an HIV positive patient."

Performing surgery on a patient with HIV/AIDS does not require hospital staff to take any extra precautions that they would not normally be required to take with other patients.

Ma Guihong, an HIV-positive woman from a village in Hebei a province neighboring Beijing, says it is in hospitals that she feels most discriminated against.

“[In hospitals] they will discriminate against you out of ignorance, for example when I go do a heart check, they will use two pairs of gloves and try to stay far from me, and put the mask on and try to protect themselves,” she says. “Common people do not discriminate against you, you go to a hospital and there is where you find discrimination.”

Blood scheme

Ma is one of the tens of thousand of people who were infected with AIDS in the 1990s after participating in state-sponsored commercial blood donation programs. She says that at the time her husband's income was not enough to support her family of two children. When local officials started encouraging people to sell blood, most assumed it was safe, and saw it as an easy way to make ends meet.

“The men went out to earn some money through labor, and the women stayed home and sold blood,” she says.
 
Lots of fellow villagers who took part in the blood scheme had gotten weak over the years, and many had died after long periods of cold-like symptoms. Newspapers were barred from reporting on the disease and the link it had with the government-run blood clinics, yet Ma says she suspected people's illnesses had something to do with the blood donations.

Only in 2004 after reading about how an HIV epidemic in a neighboring province was caused by blood sales, did Ma get tested and find out that she too had been infected.

Unequal compensation

Ma, who now heads an NGO that educates people on HIV/AIDS, was able to get fairly compensated after petitioning the government together with other victims of her village. Others have not been as successful.

According to a recent survey by the Korekata AIDS Law Center, an HIV rights protection non-profit organization based in Beijing, the amount of compensation - if any - varies greatly throughout the country.

The survey found that big obstacles remain. Courts often refuse to hear cases involving HIV/AIDS compensation, after being warned not to accept them by superior courts. Victims are required to supply evidence of the blood donations almost two decades after they sold blood, when medical records are lost or hard to find.

Many resort to petitioning to gain redress, but unlike Ma are less lucky with the outcome.

Tainted blood

When Tian Xi was only nine years old and in elementary school, he got into a fight one day with a classmate and hit his head on the corner of desk. After being taken to a state-run hospital he was given a blood transfusion of tainted blood.
 
However, he did not learn he was HIV positive until he took a test in high school. He lobbied the local and central government for compensation, but in 2010 was found guilty of destruction of property on charges that Tian says were fabricated. He was sentenced to a year of prison.

“They said that I was a criminal of the nation, but I do not agree, I think that I really care about the country and society,” he says and adds that in China people who fight for their rights, and the rights of the disadvantage group are persecuted.

During the blood scandal Li Keqiang, now China's premier in waiting, was the party chief of Henan province, where Tian was infected and one of China's most affected areas.

AIDS & Li Keqiang

Under his tenure Henan's economy grew considerably, winning the praise of senior government leaders and securing Li a smooth promotion to higher posts, but critics point at Li's response to the scandal and say that he covered up the HIV epidemic while strongly cracking down on victims and activists seeking redress.
 
Earlier this week, a decade after the first news reports on the tainted government-backed blood donation program highlighted the extent of the infection, Li Keqiang met with HIV/AIDS activists in Beijing and praised the role of NGOs in promoting better care of HIV/AIDS patients.

Guy Taylor, a consultant with the UNAIDS China office, says that Li Keqiang's recent statements show that the government is committed to fight AIDS and discrimination against HIV positive people in China.

“The laws and the statements are very very positive and now we just need to make sure they are fully implemented on the ground,” Taylor says.

Infection through blood transfusions or donations are much less prevalent now, thanks to a law passed in 1998 that prohibits all profit based collection of blood.

China has made other significant steps in reducing the AIDS mortality rates, and expanding HIV treatment and testing.

Discrimination

But, as the case of Tianjin resident Xiaofeng highlighted, discrimination is still rampant in many state-run hospitals and institutions.

The government has pledged to tackle the issue by issuing a circular banning hospitals from turning down patients infected with HIV/AIDS.

Tianjin's Health Department also said that they had started an investigation to find those within the hospitals responsible of denying treatment to Xiaofeng.

Li Hu, a Tianjin based activist who helped Xiaofeng forge his medical record before trying to get surgery for the last time, was one of the activists who met with Li Keqiang earlier this week.

In a letter addressed to the premier in waiting Li Hu wrote his NGO's recommendations to ensure better rights protection to HIV/AIDS patients.

“Showing care for people with HIV/AIDS is of direct concern for the rights of the people, and for the harmonious development of the nation,” the letter said.

You May Like

DRC Tries Mega-Farms to Feed Population

Park at Boukanga Lonzo currently has 5,000 hectares under cultivation, crops stretching as far as eye can see, and is start of ambitious large-scale agriculture plan More

Video Survivor Video Testimonies Recount Horrors of Guatemalan Genocide

During a conflict that spanned more than three decades, tens of thousands of indigenous Mayans were killed More

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Areas are spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, source of livelihood for fishermen and herders who have called the marshes home for generations More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs