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Tuesday, 13 November, 2001, 21:37 GMT
Closed door mars China Aids meeting
Delegates at China Aids conference
First Aids conference: "Point of no return"
China has opened its first national conference on Aids and HIV amid accusations of official discrimination against people with Aids.

We wanted to attend but could not get an invitation

Zhao Yong
A group of seven people with Aids who travelled from Dongguan village in the central province of Henan to the capital, Beijing, told the BBC they had been excluded from the conference.

A member of the group, Zhao Yong, said it was a great pity they had not been allowed to attend the meeting. They were infected by blood banks that had illegally recycled donated blood.

Eight-year-old Aids patient Zhang Xiaqing
Zhang, 8, contracted Aids from a blood transfusion
The executive director of the United Nations Aids programme, Peter Piot, told the BBC the conference was a clear signal from the Chinese authorities that there would be more openness in dealing with Aids.

He said the conference, involving more than 2,000 delegates and hundreds of journalists, was a point of no return.

But, addressing the plight of those refused entry, he said: "There isn't a tradition in China to involve the ordinary man and woman in the street to address problems."

Refused entry

The authorities said earlier this year that up to 50,000 people could have been infected with HIV, the virus that leads to Aids, through blood transfusions.

In some villages, 65% of the people have been infected in this way.

Zhao Yong said: "We wanted to attend but could not get an invitation. It's really bad but there is nothing we can do about it.

"Sometimes the government won't even talk to us."

Huge problem

Inside the conference a man infected with HIV told delegates of his feelings of isolation and despair when he discovered his illness.

Chinese official
China's Aids programmes reach only a fraction of those affected
He was applauded for his courage, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

China's Health Minister Zhang Wenkang said more than 600,000 people in China were now infected with HIV. International experts say the government has vastly underestimated the true figure.

More than half a million people in Henan Province alone are thought to have become infected by selling their blood to commercial blood dealers during the 1990s.

UNAids director Peter Piot
"There is not enough openness about Aids in China"
See also:

11 Sep 01 | Asia-Pacific
China court orders Aids compensation
23 Aug 01 | Asia-Pacific
China comes clean on Aids
05 Oct 01 | Asia-Pacific
Asia warned of Aids epidemic
09 Aug 01 | Europe
Aids scandals around the world
31 May 01 | Asia-Pacific
China bars Aids activist visiting US
30 May 01 | Asia-Pacific
Bad blood spreads Aids in China
08 Apr 99 | Medical notes
Blood: The risks of infection
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