Publication: China Brief Volume: 2 Issue: 17

By Gordon G. Chang

“To them we are like bubbles,” says Xie Yan, referring to officials in her village. “They know if they turn away and ignore us, we will soon pop and be gone.” The mother of three lost her husband recently. Suffering from severe headaches and nausea and showing signs of meningitis, he died of ai zi bing, the Chinese term for AIDS. She was tested a few months later and then told that she would be dead within a couple years. She is 35 now. Her children will become orphans, but government in her hamlet, the New York Times reports, won’t help.

Xie Yan’s plain words tell us why AIDS will ravage China in the years ahead: Local cadres do not care. As they ignored the problem, HIV spread. And it’s not hard to see why, especially in Xie’s Henan Province, which is south of the capital city of Beijing. Dealers there wanted to buy plasma, an ingredient in medicines. Donated blood was pooled, and the plasma was extracted in centrifuges. The remainder, mostly red blood cells, was then reinjected into the donors to prevent anemia. HIV has spread to entire villages in Henan this way.