Chinese AIDS Sufferers
Stage Mass Protest
By James Kynge in Beijing

Several hundred Chinese villagers protested this week outside a local government office demanding free medicine after claiming that botched collections of blood left them infected with HIV.
Witnesses told the Financial Times that Aids sufferers and HIV carriers, mainly from the central province of Henan, began demonstrating at a government office in Chengguan town on Monday.
Their demands had not been met by Thursday in spite of talks between local authorities and protesters, witnesses said.
The Aids issue is potentially explosive for the Chinese government because there are numerous villages in Henan - more than 50 according to one local expert - in which a high proportion of the population has contracted HIV after the sale of blood in the 1990s to negligent companies often run by local officials.
Dirty needles were regularly reused, spreading the virus. The blood collected was then often pooled, contaminating blood banks kept for transfusions.
An almost complete ignorance of HIV and Aids in the region until recently contributed to transmission through sexual contact.
The local population is poor and it was not uncommon for people to sell their blood 20 times a month, receiving about Rmb40 (£3.40) for 500ml, said Zhao Yong, an HIV carrier in Henan whose wife has died of Aids.
In some Henan villages, more than 60 per cent of the population is infected, experts say.
China has kept its Aids problem virtually taboo until last week, when it held its first international conference on Aids and acknowledged about 600,000 cases nationwide.
Some health experts and one official newspaper said the government grossly underestimated the number of sufferers.
The demonstration in Chengguan appears to have been prompted in part by the detention of a camera crew from CCTV, the official Chinese TV broadcaster, and a Beijing doctor, who were making a report on the plight of those infected.
Residents welcomed the doctor and the journalists, believing they might help their quest for compensation and free medicine. But local officials, who stood to lose prestige and possibly their jobs, detained the visitors and expelled them from the area.
The appetite for compensation has been sharpened by the publicised case last week of a court award of $43,770 (£31,011) compensation for a four-year-old girl in the northern province of Hebei whose mother died of Aids in 1999 after receiving contaminated blood following the girl's birth.

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