Chinese Government Hampering National Policies On HIV/AIDS

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Provincial and local governments in China are failing to implementnational policies on HIV/AIDS, including the provision of no-cost HIVtesting, counseling and antiretroviral drugs to low-income populations,the Washington Post reports.

According to the Post,some provincial and local government officials are reluctant tocompensate HIV-positive people who contracted the virus through taintedblood transfusions. In addition, some officials are concerned thatmedia reports surrounding HIV/AIDS could hinder investment in localeconomies. Experts have said the gap between national policies andlocal practices is the result of a system that makes community-basedreform difficult. The central government has the ability to reduce thespread of HIV, but "control and corruption inherent in a one-partysystem prevent courts and state-run news media from uncovering abuses"in HIV/AIDS policies, the Post reports.

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Hospitalsin some areas of the country do not offer HIV tests and alsodeliberately misdiagnose HIV, according to experts and some peopleliving with the virus. In Henanprovince, people who contracted HIV through tainted blood transfusionsin the 1990s often are denied no-cost treatment promised by thenational government and are turned away by the court when trying toseek compensation. Zhou Xihong, a lawyer who has worked with Henanfamilies whose children are HIV-positive, said the Henan High People'sCourt does not process HIV cases. A man at Henan High People's Court,who was identified by his surname Wang, said the court had anunofficial policy that it does not hear HIV cases. He added thatbecause Henan has so many HIV-positive people, it has "gone beyondhospitals' capability to compensate them." He added that the issue isthe "business of the state government."

Many local governmentsare reluctant to allow not-for-profit HIV/AIDS groups to operatebecause such groups are not controlled by the central government, the Post reports.HIV/AIDS advocates also have said it is difficult to track money frominternational donors earmarked for HIV/AIDS groups. Wan Yanhai, anHIV/AIDS advocate and former official at the Ministry of Health,said that most of the funds are "taken away by government orgovernment-controlled" nongovernmental organizations. He added thatavailable funds are "far from enough to allow NGOs to have meaningfuland comprehensive, preventative programs." Wan said the centralgovernment "should be very strict about implementing their [HIV/AIDS]policy," adding, "If they don't establish a transparent policy, how doyou know that the money at a local level will be used properly?"

Gao Yaojie, a well-known HIV/AIDS advocate and retired physician who in March visited the U.S. to acceptan award for her work in fighting HIV/AIDS, said, "The government'sAIDS policy is superficial. It cannot really be implemented." Sheadded, "There is a saying in the countryside. The village tells lies tothe township government; the township tells lies to the countygovernment; the county tells lies to the state council; the statecouncil issues a document; the document is read by all levels of thegovernment. After they finish reading it, they go into a restaurant,and the document is never put into practice."

According toHIV/AIDS experts, lack of action by provincial and local governments tocurb HIV is contributing to an increase in the number of cases of thevirus. There were 18,543 new HIV diagnoses reported in the first sixmonths of 2007, nearly as many reported for all of 2006, according tothe New China News Agency (Fan, Washington Post, 9/19).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view theentire Kaiser DailyHIV/AIDS Report, search the archives, and sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . TheKaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service ofThe Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

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