Leading Chinese AIDS Activist Released From Detention

Doctor Wan Yanhai, one of China’s most prominent AIDS activists, was released Friday after being detained by China’s State Security for nearly a month. Yanhai is known for helping to expose an unsanitary blood supply provided by the government that infected thousands of people in the China’s Henan Province with AIDS between 1994 and 1997.

Yanhai’s release came as a result of an international outcry against his arrest from the United Nations, US State Department, and human rights groups. “If this incident helps attract more concern and support for victims of AIDS and their families and children here in China, then it can be considered an opportunity we should grasp,” Yanhai said upon his release as reported in the New York Times.

There are signs that China may finally be overcoming its long-term denial on the country’s AIDS problem. However, as Yanhai’s arrest shows, the Chinese government still does not tolerate open discussion about the AIDS problem in its country. The United Nations has said that China is “on the verge of a catastrophe and could, if it fails to take effective action, have the largest number of HIV-infected people in the world within a few years,” according to a recent editorial in the Times.

According to a recent report from China’s Department of Disease Control of the Ministry of Health, there are approximately 1 million people who are HIV positive in China today and in 10 years this number could rise to as many as 10 million infected people. However, these numbers fall short of estimates made by foreign experts, according to the Times.

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NY Times 8/29/2002, 9/16/2002, 9/21/2002; Kaisernetwork.org 9/06/2002

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