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Chinese AIDS Activist Released - 2002-09-21

One of China's most prominent AIDS activists has been released from weeks in custody.

Wan Yanhai says he was freed after admitting that publishing a government report on the spread of AIDS in a central Chinese province "was a mistake."

China tightly controls most official data and often classifies as secret such information as health statistics, monetary figures and agricultural output.

Mr. Wan vanished into custody in late August. He says he is in good health and was not abused in custody. His wife says she expects him back in the United States next month. She publicized his plight and tried to get officials from the United Nations and the United States to help free her husband, a former Chinese government health official.

Provincial officials have been accused of trying to hide the AIDS situation, rather than addressing the serious and growing problem. China says about one-million people in the country are infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Many outside experts, however, think the official figure is far too low.

U.N. experts predict 10 million people in China could be infected over the next decade, unless Beijing takes effective public health action.

Surveys show that most Chinese people know little about how AIDS is spread, or that using a condom during sex and avoiding injecting illegal drugs reduces the risk of getting the deadly infection.