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Thursday, 31 May, 2001, 12:40 GMT 13:40 UK
China bars Aids activist visiting US
Dr Gao Yaojie
Dr Gao (right) used her pension to print Aids information
The authorities in China have blocked a doctor who exposed a tragic Aids scandal from travelling to the United States to receive a humanitarian award.

Dr Gao... is an outspoken crusader for the hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of poor farmers with HIV in China

Global Health Council
Dr Gao Yaojie has fought for the hundreds of thousands of peasants in Henan province who contracted HIV, the virus that causes Aids, when they sold their blood in a lucrative blood collection business run by local health officials.

The retired gynaecologist, 76, was due to travel to Washington DC to attend the annual Global Health Council conference to receive the Jonathan Mann award for health and human rights.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan was set to attend the ceremony.

Wenlou villager
The peasants say they have no money for medical treatment
Dr Gao said officials from her former hospital in Zhengzhou city in Henan province had refused to approve her passport application, as is required by regulations, and accused her of working for "anti-China forces".

"They are afraid they'll lose their jobs if I publicise the situation of Aids in China," she was reported as saying.

Lucrative business

Dr Gao, who began campaigning about Aids in 1996, has used her pension to help fund educational material about HIV.

She has also organised several hundred student volunteers to do HIV education in the Henan countryside.

The disease spread through the province through a blood-buying business - operating in the early 1990s - set up by Henan health officials.

Wenlou villagers say they can only wait to die now
Under the scheme, the blood collected was pooled in a large tub, where valuable plasma was extracted to be sold to pharmaceutical companies.

Donors were given back replenishments of red blood cells with contaminated needles.

The profitable business generated much revenue for the local health authority as well as kickbacks for officials involved, before it was outlawed in 1996.

In one Henan village, Wenlou, 65% of those tested have been infected.

Wenlou villagers told the BBC's Beijing correspondent Adam Brookes that that everyone who had sold their blood had become infected with HIV, and they were unable to afford medical treatment.

Henan health officials have been accused of trying to cover up the extent of the epidemic.

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See also:

30 May 01 | Asia-Pacific
Bad blood spreads Aids in China
06 Nov 00 | Asia-Pacific
China battles sex disease explosion
30 Nov 00 | Asia-Pacific
Asia's burgeoning Aids epidemic
01 Nov 00 | Asia-Pacific
China wages war on Aids
14 Jul 00 | Asia-Pacific
Aids spreads in China
04 Nov 99 | Aids
Aids up close
08 Apr 99 | Medical notes
Blood: The risks of infection
08 Jul 99 | Aids
Aids worldwide
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