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Critic slams praise for China's AIDS effort

Activist says UNICEF does not see the true picture
Critic slams praise for China's AIDS effort
Chinese vice-premier Li Keqiang meets AIDS patients and NGO representatives
Published: November 29, 2012 07:25 AM GMT
Updated: November 28, 2012 10:47 PM GMT

A leading AIDS activist has condemned comments made by a UNICEF official during an interview this week in which she praised China’s efforts in fighting the deadly disease.

Gillian Mellsop, UNICEF’s China representative, told the official Xinhua News Agency on Tuesday that the UN agency was very impressed with Beijing’s efforts in tackling AIDS, and that China has made tremendous progress in the last 20 years.

She said she was also impressed with Chinese vice-premier Li Keqiang’s pragmatic approach in his discussions with NGOs on how to deal with the issue.

Mellsop had attended a meeting, chaired by Li, with AIDS patients, volunteers, and representatives of local and foreign NGOs on Monday.

Li, who has just been elected to the seven-member standing committee of the Communist Party’s politburo, is also the head of a State Council commission tasked with combating HIV/AIDS and providing treatment for patients.

But AIDS expert and campaigner Wan Yahai yesterday painted a much bleaker picture of the AIDS situation in China and expressed shock at Mellsop’s comments.  The director of the Aizhixing Research Institute in Beijing urged the UNICEF official “not to be a fig leaf for crimes.”

“Commitment to helping AIDS patients and grassroots organizations is woefully insufficient,” he said.

He also pointed out that a humanitarian disaster occurred in Henan province while Li was provincial head (1998-2002) and party secretary (2002-2004). Hundreds of thousands of people died in an epidemic caused by contaminated blood in transfusions.

“It is a shameful part in medical history,” said Wan.

In a statement, the Aizhixing Research Institute called on Li to meet and talk with AIDS patients in Henan and to order the lifting of surveillance and restrictions on patients and those who fight for their rights.

The institute also demanded that Li ensures the rights of the victims of the disaster are respected, that they are provided with compensation and medical care, and their children's rights are protected.

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