China-Aids : a critical stage

07/04/2005
Report
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The Right to Health in China - The Example of Aids

Alternative Report to the United Nations Committee on Economic,
Social and Cultural Rights

Paris, 7 April 2005 : To mark the occasion of World Health Day, FIDH is publishing a report entitled ‘The Right to Health in China - The Example of Aids’. Titled "A critical stage", this report considers the handling of the HIV/AIDS epidemic by the Chinese authorities from the 1980’s to the present day.

Until the beginning of the 1990’s, the Chinese Government merely severely restricted the entry of foreigners into the country and prohibited the importation of blood products in an attempt to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS to China. Yet, from the beginning of the 1990’s until the beginning of the new decade, the virus was propagated within China mainly through the means of blood banks. Despite of numerous warnings, the Chinese Government denied the extent of the crisis, adopting only a limited preventative policy, focussing on the surveillance of drug users and prostitutes and the promotion of ‘healthy sexual morality’. It was not until the SARS crisis of 2003 that the Government was finally forced to acknowledge the scale of the epidemic, which now affects the whole of the population, and to start to develop a prevention and treatment policy.

Yet, practice and legislation that discriminate against HIV carriers and AIDS sufferers persist; thus since November 2004, HIV carriers are permitted to take the examinations to enter into the public service. However, AIDS sufferers are automatically excluded. "Numerous local laws explicitly deny AIDS sufferers the right to marry. In the province of Jilin, pregnant women who have AIDS are subjected to forced abortion", stated Judith Commeau, the author of the report.

Apart from discriminatory provisions written into Chinese law, people originating from the ‘AIDS villages’, particularly from Henan, are subject to collective ostracism: "nobody wants to marry a boy or a girl from one of these communities, on the markets nobody will buy their produce, the army no longer recruits there, and when a youth is looking for a job outside his province, he lies about where he comes from", a study by Pierre Haski, quoted in the report, stated.

70% of HIV/AIDS carriers recognised by the last census are presently concentrated in rural areas, where hospital facilities and doctors are severely lacking. In rural areas, according to the Vice Minister of Health, Zhu Qingsheng, more than 50% of the population is unable to afford medical care and 40-60% of rural people lapse into poverty as a result of an illness. Furthermore, the generic antiretroviral drugs available in China that are extremely expensive on an average Chinese salary, are of poor quality.

"Not only are the measures adopted by the Chinese authorities to combat AIDS largely insufficient, but also, independent NGOs working on this issue are subject to systematic repression. The release of statistics regarding the extent of the epidemic is often considered as a state secret and journalists cannot freely gather information and report on the issue, particularly in the Henan province which has been particularly affected by the AIDS epidemic", the President of FIDH, Sidiki Kaba, stated.

The report has been submitted to the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which will examine the initial report by China under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights at the end of this month.

Press Contact : Gaël Grilhot : + 33-1 43 55 25 18

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