Court case reveals massive HIV problem in Chinese blood banks

Fear of legal action is hobbling research into a key AIDS threat, which may quadruple the numbers infected with HIV in China.

Robert Walgate
Oct 2, 2000

LONDON. A court in the poor Chinese province of Henan has ordered a local health authority — the Xinye County Health Bureau — to pay 380,000 Renminbi (RMB) (around £30,000 or US$45,000) to the family of a six-year-old child who was infected with HIV through a blood transfusion after a playground injury, according to a report in the 7 August Henan Dahebao, a Henan newspaper.

The story is not likely to be isolated, for it has brought to the surface estimates that there may be 2–4 million people in China who have been unknowingly infected with HIV through ill-managed, private blood banks — more than quadrupling previous calculations of the numbers of HIV-positive persons in China. For example, UNAIDS in its 2000 report (published in June) used a figure of only 500,000 HIV-positive people.

But the potential financial liability from blood-bank transmission — running into hundreds of billions of...

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