NAME WITHHELD, 40, professional, husband, father; developed tuberculosis (TB) and was tested for HIV, without consent, in 1997.
Total population 1.25 billion
Number of people with HIV
Official gov’t 17,316
Number of people with AIDS
Official gov’t 647
Number of openly positive 6
20% Blood products
In certain regions, 70% of IDUs are infected. More than two-thirds of HIVers are under 30. HIV prevention is crippled due to taboos on talk about sex. Condom ads were recently banned from TV. Seven out of 10 Chinese believe kissing spreads AIDS. TB is epidemic. 80% of rural population lacks government-funded health care. Two new AIDS vaccines in human tests by 2002.
So far only my wife knows I have HIV. After a period of shock, she managed to come to terms with it. She’s still very afraid because of the danger, but she is an exception; she approaches the issue very scientifically and rationally. I do not know anyone else with HIV. Of course, I would like to make contact with someone, but I don’t want to risk the exposure. I’m really afraid: Maybe I’ll lose my job, maybe my kid will not be able to go to school -- that would be a catastrophe.
Only a couple of HIV-positive people have appeared in public. Otherwise, people are hidden, because there would be tremendous pressure. There was a young lady who got the problem, and when she returned to her hometown -- a small village in the countryside -- her family got in big trouble. Very soon, this lady died, both because of the disease and because of the terror. After her death, her family was not able to lead a normal life. People would not talk to them or contact them, out of fear. The shops refused to sell to them. Instead, overnight, the shopkeepers would leave what they wanted at their door, secretly.
In China, you have to pay your own medical bill, and the drugs cost more than $10,000 [U.S.] per year. I earn less than $2,000 [U.S.]. I pay for the drugs with my savings, plus I try to generate additional income through outside projects. It’s very tough.
I’m enormously indebted to my doctor. He has played a very important role in pushing the government to allow these drugs to be imported into China -- which only happened a few months ago. Before that, he personally made some informal arrangements to get the drugs; this is why I say I’m very lucky.
The government has done a lot -- especially over the last several years -- to focus on prevention. More and more, educated people in big cities realize how HIV is transmitted. But most still don’t. You can buy condoms anywhere, and it’s not expensive. But there’s a debate: Some officials say you should support people to use condoms; others hold the view that by doing so you encourage people to have out-of-marriage sex.
As for the welfare of people with AIDS, the government has done little. Also, the international societies and the drug companies can do more. If the companies reduced the prices significantly, it would not only directly save a lot of lives, but it would also reduce unfounded fears and the social prejudice toward PWAs. This disease is terrible, but people think it’s some kind of evil superdisease. Please convey my view on behalf of many other people in this situation; it is a matter of life and death.