month, Chinese legislators are reviewing a ground-breaking proposal
that would provide compensation to tens of thousands of victims of
the HIV/AIDS tainted blood disaster. A new report, released today by
Asia Catalyst, shows this compensation fund is urgently needed, since
victims have been unable to get fair compensation on their own.
“China has an historic opportunity to make things right for the victims of the world’s largest HIV/AIDS blood disaster,” said Sara L.M. Davis, executive director of Asia Catalyst and a co-author of the report. “We hope the government will respond to the thousands of families affected and create an effective compensation policy.”
The report, China’s Blood Disaster: The Way Forward, is jointly published by Asia Catalyst, a U.S. nonprofit, and the Korekata AIDS Law Center, a nonprofit in Beijing. Korekata researchers traveled to remote villages to interview more than 30 victims, and drew on the legal aid center’s dossiers of another 30 victims, as well as consulting experts and doing archival research.
“We found that many impoverished victims of the blood disaster have been unable to get compensation,” Davis said. “Many courts refuse to consider HIV-related cases, and some cases drag on for years with no decision. Where compensation is paid at all, it tends to be minimal. We are excited that the government may at last address the desperate needs of these victims with a national policy.”
In the 1990s, state-sponsored, for-profit blood-collection centers used unsafe practices to spread HIV to thousands of people in Henan and other central provinces. After HIV entered hospital blood supplies, it was spread further through hospital blood transfusions. Once nongovernmental organizations and journalists brought the disaster to light, the Chinese government worked to bring the situation under control by banning the sale of blood. However, most victims have never been compensated for the harm they suffered.
In December 2011, a national forum on HIV/AIDS and human rights held a hearing on the blood disaster at which many victims shared their personal stories. A working group of policy advisors and lawyers drafted a proposal, available online in Chinese, to establish a national compensation fund.
“The proposal is a bold move, but it only proposes to compensate people infected by hospitals, not victims who sold their blood to state-run facilities,” Davis said. “We hope any future compensation fund can include those blood donors.”
As one of the victims in Hubei Province said, “I’m a person living with HIV/AIDS, my wife is too, so we’re both ill, and who’s going to raise our child? I’m too weak to look after him. ”
The report recommendations include:
- An independent survey to establish an accurate number of people living with HIV as a result of the blood disaster;
- Specific and detailed recommendations on the establishment and operation of the fund, including eligibility of applicants, compensation amounts, and civil society participation;
- An official government apology to all victims of the disaster.
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Voices From the Central Plains: In the Words of China’s Blood Disaster Victims
“I’m a person living with HIV/AIDS, my wife is too, so we’re both ill, and who’s going to raise our child? I’m the only child in my family, so what are my mom and dad supposed to do? I’m the person who’s supposed to raise my kid, but I’m too weak to look after him.”
“We managed to find the invoice from the blood transfusion we had back when we stayed in the hospital, the medical certificate and the hospital discharge certificate, but the People’s Court wouldn’t hear our case. We wish the government would give people living with HIV/AIDS their right to sue, and that the courts will give us fair compensation.”
“We got the [contaminated] blood transfusion at a private hospital, but someone’s wife is a big official in the city, and that person is always shutting down our lawsuit.”
“The government went through our provincial bar association to telephone our lawyer’s firm in the province where he lived, and told the firm to revoke his license. The blood center expert who came [to our town] with our lawyer pleaded with him to go home that night. He said if our lawyer didn’t go right away, they were going to fire him.”
“We went to see the health bureau chief, and he says, ‘The mayor hasn’t approved [compensation], so what am I supposed to do? I can’t do anything. I work for the mayor, the mayor doesn’t work for me.’ He told me, ‘You want to go petition anyone, you go right ahead. Go to the State Council if you want, it doesn’t matter one bit to me.’ This is the answer I got from the health bureau.”
“Let me tell you, if you look around online, you’ll see that people who got hepatitis B, here in Hubei, they got paid 200,000 CNY [about US$31,750]. We got both hepatitis C AND AIDS, but we only got a couple ten thousand. So I asked the government, I said, if you kill one person you get the death sentence, but if you kill two people you’re not guilty? The more people you kill, the lighter the penalty. What kind of logic is that?”
“A lot of my friends who are living with HIV, their story is just like mine. They go to the government, and the local government says, how the heck did you get this disease? It’s because you sold blood, you took the money, so it’s your own hard luck. The government’s giving you medicine for free, so what else do you want? But I say this is wrong. Selling blood was organized by society, it was caused by poverty back then. At the time, they said selling blood was glorious, selling blood was good for your health, and that’s why we did it. Now you should give us some kind of statement, you owe us an explanation.”
“Now [they say] I’m a criminal [because I sold my blood]. But back then, selling blood was a big pyramid scheme. Everyone in the family went, you took me or I took you, friends took friends. Back then, you were excited to get 50 kuai [about US$8], and after the 2 kuai fee to register, you had 48 kuai in your pocket. You could buy ramen noodles in bulk for less than 30 mao [about 3 cents], you took that 50 kuai home and you could get your kid something to eat, and you felt pretty good about it. Back then, we didn’t know we were going to get sick. If we knew that who would have done it?”