China’s AIDS Crisis

It is rare for a foreign doctor to get to China’s rural areas, where its AIDS epidemic was born and takes a horrible toll. But recently, two nurses and I ventured into a poor farming area, Nizui in Hubei Province, as part of a Medecins Sans Frontières(MSF) team to visit the Liu family and evaluate their 7-month-old baby. The child was the size of a two month old, but his eyes held the gaze of an 80-year-old man long acquainted with extreme suffering. The baby was dying of AIDS. His parents, aunts, and uncles were also HIV-positive.

The Liu family is one of thousands of poor farming families in China’s interior who contracted HIV through contaminated blood donations during the 1990’s, when under-regulated for-profit blood banking companies reused needles and transferred blood from infected donors to clean donors after extracting the plasma.

The Chinese Health Ministry recently put the total number of HIV/AIDS cases at 840,000, although most experts believe that the true number is much higher. Some believe that by 2010, the number of infected Chinese may reach 10 million.

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