A tragedy of HIV exposure in rural China

Wan
Wan

Last August, Chinese authorities detained a mild-mannered, bespectacled physician named Wan Yan Hai and held him for almost a month. His crime? Helping to inform the world of an emerging HIV/AIDS crisis in the Chinese hinterlands. During a visit to Yale sponsored by the Yale-China Association in December, Wan told the tragic story, which was the subject of a series of articles in The New York Times last year. Impoverished farmers who had sold their blood were reinjected with pooled red blood cells after the plasma had been removed. The pooled blood product was derived from many donors and was not screened for pathogens. “Many, many experts believe there are at least 1 million infected with HIV in Henan province,” said Wan, one of China’s leading AIDS activists. “I believe it is 2 million, maybe even more. In most of the villages, people got infected by blood selling.” Wan received a 2002 Award for Action on HIV/AIDS and Human Rights from the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network and Human Rights Watch and a separate award from the International League for Human Rights.