UN Official Says China Should Compensate HIV-hit Blood Donors

by Rajashri on Sep 19 2008 3:39 PM

A leading UN official has called on China to compensate thousands of people infected with the HIV virus through government-backed blood trading. He also said that these people should be given access to the latest anti-AIDS drugs.

Peter Piot, director of UNAIDS, said he would raise the issue with China's top leaders and urge compensation for who contracted HIV after selling blood in the central province of Henan.

"People are still basically waiting for compensation," Piot said of the illegal and unsanitary blood trade that rocked the province in the late 1990s and early this decade.

"It is incredibly tragic... the issue of compensation, in the courts, is something that has not been resolved. I will definitely raise the issue (with China's leaders)."

Piot will meet on Friday with Vice Premier Li Keqiang, who once headed Henan province and is currently in charge of China's HIV/AIDS programme.

China has about 700,000 HIV/AIDS carriers, with an estimated 50,000 people infected in 2007, according to UNAIDS.

Up to 40,000 of China's overall number of HIV/AIDS patients live in Henan, one of the nation's hardest hit provinces. Many were infected in unsanitary blood collection drives that had been approved by local governments.

Although the government has set out guidelines to provide the Henan patients with the latest in AIDS drugs, the medication was not finding its way into the region, Piot said.

"People are still dying because they cannot have access to what we call second and third-line drugs," Piot said.

"In AIDS treatment, people are treated with first-line drugs, but gradually the virus develops resistance to these drugs so they need what we call second line, these are more expensive drugs, newer drugs."