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Last Updated: Wednesday, 16 June, 2004, 15:06 GMT 16:06 UK
China 'plans Aids orphanage'
By Francis Markus
BBC correspondent in Shanghai

Dignitaries visit Chinese Aids orphans
Aids in China has been a taboo subject
China is set to build its first Aids orphanage, according to state media.

It is one of the most open pronouncements so far on a subject still loaded with taboos.

The home is to be built in the central province of Henan.

Villagers throughout whole swathes of countryside there became infected with the HIV virus through the sale of blood starting in the early 1990s.

Nobody knows precisely how many have died.

Private help

Many Aids workers believe China's official figure, of some 840,000 infected people nationwide, is a drastic understatement.

In Henan so far, much of the help the orphans have received has come from private citizens.

But Aids activists say several homes they have set up have been closed down by local authorities on the grounds that they are illegal.

It shows the extreme political sensitivity of the issue.

Officials in Henan say too much media exposure of Aids will damage the economy, while activists say there are too many people responsible for Henan's Aids crisis still in power.

It is clear that the central government is giving ever greater prominence to the anti-Aids campaign, but the UN and other agencies are warning that time is not on Beijing's side.


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