AIDS and China’s Economy

For whatever reason, the AIDS crisis in China seems to be yet another calamity to which many, inside China and outside, turn a blind eye. The UN is now warning that the epidemic may soon threaten China’s economy:

Peter Piot, head of the United Nations AIDS program, says he has warned the Chinese government that the epidemic could lead to social instability and political paralysis. Yet the highest-ranking government leaders have failed to make any strong statements on the issue, making it easy for business leaders and local officials to ignore the crisis, he said yesterday.

Indeed, half of the Chinese population doesn’t know what AIDS is, Mr. Piot said. “The first thing we have to do is to break the silence about AIDS,” he said. “A lot of work needs to be done with the provinces.”

Because of China’s deteriorating public health system, Beijing doesn’t even have any basic statistics on the number of cases in each province, he said. In some parts of the country, AIDS activists have been arrested, harassed and jailed.

Well, a few days ago the government declared November to be AIDS Awareness Month, so they can’t be accused of doing nothing. But pretty close. What will it take to force the leaders to see this crisis for what it truly is?

Related post: The indescribable tragedy of AIDS in China

The Discussion: 2 Comments

It would take some heavyweight economist such as Jeffery Sachs, who have long been arguing about the impact of health on GDP, to come up with some GDP negative growth numbers (that I assume would be staggering), to make the case for more actions to remedy the crisis before it becomes too late. Money talks in this country.

November 7, 2003 @ 2:14 am | Comment

Yes, money sure talks in China. Maye phrasing the AIDS crisis in terms of financial impact will provide the much-needed wake-up call.

November 7, 2003 @ 4:39 am | Comment

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