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Thursday, 23 August, 2001, 11:35 GMT 12:35 UK
China comes clean on Aids
Aids patients rest in hospital
There has been a 67% increase in HIV infections so far this year
By Duncan Hewitt in Shanghai

Chinese health officials have estimated that 30,000-50,000 people could have been infected with HIV, the virus that leads to Aids, through blood transfusions.

China's Deputy Health Minister, Yin Dakui, said most of these people were blood donors, many of whom had sold blood to illegal collectors.

China's HIV timebomb
50,000 - Chinese estimates
600,000 - WHO estimates
10 million - WHO projection for 2010
It is the most detailed official acknowledgement yet of the scale of a scandal which has affected poor rural areas in the central province of Henan.

Officials said that over 300 people had been affected there in one village alone.

Cover up

For months the Chinese Government has tried to cover up the HIV blood scandal in Henan. Even now officials try to stop reporters visiting the area.

Wenlou villager
Thousands have been infected with HIV through selling blood
But last month, the government acknowledged there was a problem.

Now Mr Yin, who was sent to the region to investigate, has told reporters in Beijing that in the worst affected village close to 20% of residents had HIV, and of those who had sold blood, 43%, or almost 250 people, were infected.

He said a survey in other local villages showed a similar incidence.

For many years, villagers in Henan sold blood to illegal traders who pooled the blood from different donors in large vats, extracted the plasma, and re-injected the remaining mixture into the donors.

Screening programme

The Chinese Government recently announced it would spend over $100m to improve the screening of blood used in transfusions, raising some hopes among Aids experts that the scandal may be forcing the authorities to take the problem more seriously.

Deputy Health Minister Yin Dakui
Yin: "A very serious epidemic"
The government says intravenous drug use is still the main source of HIV infection, and Mr Yin said more than a third of drug users still share needles.

He also gave new figures suggesting that only 9% of Chinese prostitutes insisted that their clients used condoms - an alarming statistic in a nation where prostitution is widespread.

The minister said HIV infection among prostitutes rose to 1.3%, a level which experts say could lead to a rapid spread of the virus.

The BBC's Rupert Wingfield Hayes
"The Government's response has been one of containment and denial"
The BBC's Adam Brookes
first reported on China's AIDS crisis in May 2001
See also:

09 Aug 01 | Asia-Pacific
China admits Aids crisis
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
30 Nov 00 | Asia-Pacific
Asia's burgeoning Aids epidemic
04 Nov 99 | Aids
Aids up close
17 Jun 99 | Asia-Pacific
China's youth wants sexual freedom
08 Apr 99 | Medical notes
Blood: The risks of infection
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