12/02/2009, 00.00
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AIDS activists ask for government help

For years, Chinese authorities denied the presence of the HIV virus in China, and allowed the trade in infected blood products for transfusion to go on. The result has been that AIDS has become the leading killer among infectious diseases in the country.
Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – A group of Chinese activists organised a rarely seen demonstration, demanding more government recognition and help in the fight against the virus and disease. Wearing white face masks scrawled with the words like “Infected blood transfusions cause AIDS,” 20 or so activists mounted a stage set up by China's Red Cross for yesterday’s official World AIDS Day events.

“Our fight for free treatment has continued for the past eight years with no luck," protester Liu Xiurong said.

The HIV virus that causes AIDS gained a foothold in China largely due to unsanitary blood plasma-buying schemes and tainted transfusions in hospitals

Hospitals often bought unsterilized blood products for transfusion on the black market. Chinese authorities have denied such claims but for years they also denied that AIDS actually existed in China.

As a result of this, AIDS became the top killer among infectious diseases in China for the first time last year. By the end of October, the number of Chinese confirmed with HIV-AIDS was 319,877, according to China's Health Ministry. Health Minister Chen Zhu said the actual level of infections is probably closer to 740,000.

Ms Liu, from the northeastern city of Harbin, said her son was infected with the HIV virus by tainted plasma several years ago. She received compensation from the Shanghai company that supplied the blood, but the money is not enough to cover medical costs.

“The money we got is not even close to the amount that we need to live. My son still needs treatment,” she said.

“Now that we've put ourselves out there, there is a chance that we'll be beaten or arrested in the future,” Liu said. But “it’s okay, because we have nothing left to lose.”

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