About two years ago, Gao Yaojie, an elderly Chinese medical doctor and AIDS activist, painstakingly avoided layers of surveillance by the Chinese communist regime and escaped to the United States. Her mission: to show there is an AIDS epidemic in China whose extent and cause authorities have been hiding.
Since her arrival Gao has published three books and is preparing two more. She spends at least four hours a day at her computer writing books, even though she finds doing so exhausting. Two days ago she fainted at home.
Though 85 years-old, Gao does not regret enduring such hardship. She said she “hopes that her writings can improve the situation of AIDS patients in China.”
Chinese authorities have been persistently denying that the rampant spread of AIDS in the country was caused by blood selling. In “The Sixth International Experience Sharing Conference of AIDS Prevention in China” held in late November, China’s Minister of Health, Chen Zhu, continued to stress that sexual contacts had been the primary route for the transmission of AIDS in China. Chen added that since the first AIDS victim was identified in 1985, there have been 429,000 reported cases of HIV-infection and AIDS patients, leading to a death toll of 86,000.
Gao condemned the number cited by the Ministry of Health as ridiculously low.
“Chen is talking nonsense,” Gao said. “To-date, the HIV-infected population has exceeded 10 million. Ms. Ding Zilin, whose son was killed at the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989, said she had identified 202 bodies after the massacre [the Party claimed that no one had been killed]. I would like to claim that I can locate more than 200,000 graves of AIDS victims. I once went to an AIDS-stricken rural village and saw 6 victims buried that very day.”
Gao explained that there are different types of HIV found in Chinese AIDS patients and most of the disease’s contraction can be traced to the practice of selling blood.
“There used to be 10,000 places across China where you could sell blood,” Gao said. “Contraction due to blood transfusion has always been the last thing that they [the authorities] want to admit. They obstinately attribute the cause to sexual intercourse. As a matter of fact, sexual transmission was responsible for less than ten percent of the cases. In contrast, sixty percent of those who engaged in blood selling contracted HIV.”
Gao added that blood-selling in China has not disappeared but has merely assumed different forms—a formerly public practice has gone underground and shifted from the north to the south. Because the HIV-infected blood was sold to the entire country, there have been increasing reports of infection in the cities due to blood transfusion.
She has also found other abuses. “Now there exist even more appalling things such as stealing money from AIDS donation funds,” Gao said. “Those who are supposed to be in charge dare to steal both money and property, and they deceive everyone. During the last few years, they have suppressed everyone who dares to speak up. Now many people are dying and the number is even approaching the level of the Great Famine [1958-61].”
Gao has had a very tough life. Because she was born to a large and wealthy family, she was classified as a “Class Enemy” during the Culture Revolution. She was locked up in a morgue for nearly eight months.
After the Cultural Revolution, she was transferred to Henan Province to work as a doctor and lecturer in medical science. During a consultation in 1996, she met an AIDS patient. She suspected that this patient had contracted the virus during a blood transfusion and she worried that there might be more than one victim. Out of her sense of responsibility as a doctor, she started to become involved in AIDS prevention.
After a long period of both open and secret investigations, she found that since the 1980s, many people had been selling their blood to make money in mainland China. Many poor citizens contracted AIDS in this way and the victims could do nothing but wait for their death in despair, leaving behind many children who also had AIDS.
Gao’s care for AIDS victims and her attempt to reveal the truth behind the epidemic in China resulted in the Chinese Communist Regime targeting her. In order to continue providing care and support for AIDs patients in China, the 85-year-old Gao decided in the winter of 2009 to leave her home and family and become an exile in the United States.
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