Chinese AIDS Activist Released From Prison, But China Still Has Infected Blood On Its Hands

Chinese AIDS activist Tian Xi  has finally been released after a year in prison for “intentional destruction of property” at the hospital where he was infected with HIV more than a decade ago.

Last August, police in Xincai in the Henan province detained Tian, 24, after he pushed some office supplies off a desk during a heated argument with a hospital administrator.

Really—A year for a few pens and paper clips? That sounds totally reasonable.

Maybe authorities really threw Tian in the clink because he’s been loudly advocating for the tens of thousands of Chinese people infected with HIV through the contaminated national blood supply in the 1990s, well after most countries instituted stringent blood testing. At that time, many poor rural residents were infected through government-run or illegal blood-selling schemes in Henan and other central provinces. Unofficial investigations concluded that local officials covered up the crisis and left infected people to their own fate.

Tian was only 10 when he was infected at the very hospital he was arrested at last summer. He has spent years lobbying the government for compensation for himself and other victims. “Tian Xi … has shown a greater sense of responsibility for the Chinese blood disaster than many of those double his age who were, in fact, responsible,” said China AIDS Solidarity Network’s Meg Davis. “With no other options, Tian Xi has repeatedly protested on behalf of himself and others, knowing that he would likely be imprisoned eventually, because he wanted to keep this issue alive.”

The government’s health ministry has estimated that some 740,000 people are living with HIV in China—mostly undiagnosed because of the stigma and fear surrounding the virus.

Oh, we’re sure that number’s not an under-representation—the Chinese government has been sooo forthcoming on the issue so far, right?

Image via Housing Works