By Advocate.com Editors
Originally published on Advocate.com August 23 2003 12:00 AM ET
A health official in China's Henan province, home of the greatest concentration of AIDS patients in the world's most populous nation, was arrested this week and charged with leaking secret documents related to the HIV infection of thousands of rural residents through blood collections and transfusions, Agence France-Presse reports. Ma Shiwen, deputy director of the Henan Centers for Disease Control, was arrested for providing information about the epidemic in the province to an AIDS activist group. Another health official and AIDS activist in the region, Wan Yanhai, was arrested last year for leaking state AIDS secrets. Wan, currently in the United States as a visiting scholar, said Ma's arrest may stem from an event occurring last August, in which several state documents revealing the extent of the AIDS epidemic in Henan province were provided to activists electronically. Wan was arrested after he posted the documents to an AIDS activist group's Web site. He was released a month later. There has been no response from government officials as to where Ma is being detained or the specific charges against him.
As many as 1 million Henan province residents were infected with HIV in the 1980s and 1990s through unsafe blood collection practices. Blood brokers reportedly used dirty needles and other unsafe supplies to withdraw blood from villagers, then pooled unusable portions of the blood and reinjected them back into the donors so that they could recover more quickly and donate again sooner.