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September 19, 2007

China’s Political and Medical Disconnect

As HIV infection rates continue to rise across China—18,543 new cases were reported during the first six months of this year—not all parts of the country are responding equally to the national government’s call for awareness, testing and treatment. In China’s provincial regions some hospitals do not offer HIV tests—and often misdiagnose AIDS-related illnesses.

In Henan Province, for example, local authorities have turned away those infected during the 1990s blood-buying scandal and who applied for the compensation and treatment promised by the national government. Experts say the treatment and awareness gap between the central government and local officials arose from corruption born out of a one-party political system.

Nonprofit groups, such as Doctors Without Borders, are working to ensure cooperation between local and national Chinese governments. Meanwhile, acclaimed Chinese AIDS activist Dr. Gao Yaojie claims, “The [national] government’s AIDS policy is superficial. It cannot really be implemented.”

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