10/25/2006, 00.00
CHINA

Shanghai: HIV+ activists arrested for denouncing Chinese ill-health system

The three men are haemophiliacs from Shanghai, "guilty" of denouncing the health authorities of Beijing that sold them a product infected by HIV. More than 650,000 people are infected with HIV or have developed AIDS in China.

Shanghai (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Chinese police yesterday arrested three HIV-positive haemophiliacs who last month publicly accused the health authorities of selling them HIV-tainted blood products.

Plain-clothes officers stopped the three men as they left a Shanghai hospital after a routine check-up and took them away in an unmarked car.

Up to 30 haemophiliacs gathered outside the municipal government building in the evening to demand their release. "They need their medicine by 9pm tonight, their conditions are all acute," said one of them, who gave his name as "Mao-mao".

Mao-mao said that in September, the three men participated in a public forum about haemophilia [a disease of the blood that prevents coagulation] in Beijing to represent 61 other haemophiliacs in Shanghai. All 64 haemophiliacs contracted HIV after using Factor VIII, a blood product used in treatment of the disease made by the state-owned Shanghai Institute of Biological Products.

For over a year, the group sought to launch a lawsuit against the institute and the Beijing Municipal Health Bureau, but Shanghai's municipal government rejected their claim. They said the health authorities did not submit the product to a viral inactivation process that would have made it sterile, and this negligence led to the AIDS virus being transmitted to haemophiliacs forced to use this product.

Mao-mao said: "Overseas medical institutions stopped dispensing blood products without viral inactivation in 1985, and the Beijing Municipal Health Bureau had still not included that process as a requirement in their guidelines regulating biological products issued in 1990 and 1995."

Such products were banned in September 1995. Up to 70 haemophiliacs tested HIV positive in Shanghai between 1995 and 2000, and six of them had died of Aids. In China, there were 650,000 people infected with HIV/AIDS at the end of last year.

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