02/16/2007, 00.00
CHINA
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AIDS activist Gao Yaojie still under house arrest

She was to receive an award in Washington, but has been prevented by police. She is known for blowing the whistle on the blood trade and unsafe transfusions that affected Henan farmers and spread the virus throughout the province.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – A retired doctor and AIDS activist who won a prize for blowing the whistle on AIDS will remain under house arrest through Chinese New Year.

In her 80s, Gao Yaojie is known throughout China and around the world for bringing to light the spread of AIDS in her home province of Henan, where during the 1990s commercial blood stations spread the HIV virus among poor farmers eager to sell their blood as a result of the unhygienic conditions in which blood donations and transfusions were performed. Despite the consequences no senior officials have been prosecuted or publicly castigated for the scandal.

Dr Gao was due to travel to Washington next month to be honoured at the annual awards ceremony of the Vital Voices Global Partnership, an NGO whose honorary chair is Hillary Clinton. But she said police had blocked her from travelling to Beijing to obtain a visa since early this month.

Dr Gao said yesterday that she promised not to go to Washington and asked her sister, who lives in Los Angeles, to collect the award.

As a reward for her decision the authorities reactivated her phone line, but four police officers remain on guard outside her apartment in Zhengzhou (Henan).

“I think they'll keep me detained until March,” she told the Reuters news agency. “They don't want me to talk about AIDS, especially to foreigners. But if we don't speak about it, AIDS will keep spreading, and I'm worried about how it's still spreading through blood transfusions.”

Officially, Henan province has 25,000 AIDS cases.

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