China’s leading AIDS activist Gao Yaojie publicly honored

More good news from China on the AIDS front.

Despite being persecuted by local authorities, Dr. Gao Yaojie, 76, is now being honored and recognized for her tireless efforts to campaign for AIDS victims in China. (I wrote about her persecution just a few days ago.)

For the first time, Dr. Gao Yaojie, China’s leading AIDS activist, has been honored by her country and is among 10 recipients of the Touching China award, presented by the national China Central Television (CCTV). The 77 year-old retired gynecologist has spent years helping AIDS victims with her own money. Honored abroad for her dedication, she received the Jonathon Mann Award in 2001. At home, she has been continuously harassed by local authorities who threatened her, tapped her phone, and tried to prevent her from attending AIDS related conferences.
Honoring Dr. Gao may signify a change in the lethargy and deliberate secretiveness which the Chinese Government has been criticized for in its dealing with AIDS in the past. For the first time, China Central Television showed images of the AIDS-striken peasants in primitive village clinics. In December,Vice Premier and Health Minister, Wu Yi, met for a private 3-hour consultation with Dr. Gao who told Ms. Wu that priority must be given to finding adoptive families for the over 2000 children orphaned by the disease, and that the increasing problem of frauds selling fake medicine to AIDS patients must be eradicated.

On February 18th, 76 officials were sent by the Henan provincial government to 38 of the 100 AIDS inflicted villages, to help victims and their families.

After many years of silence and duplicity on this subject, it is a wonderful thing to see some light shining into the tunnel. Many factors have brought about the new relative transparencey, from the SARS disaster to the efforts of AIDS cocktail developer Dr. David Ho to a speech in China by Bill Clinton, who introduced a young man with AIDS to the attendees and the media, putting a human face to an oissue that has been largely dominated by fear and supersition.

Let’s hope the good news continues.

Related post: The indescribable tragedy of AIDS in China

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