Detained Chinese health official released

By Advocate.com Editors

Originally published on Advocate.com October 23 2003 12:00 AM ET

Ma Shiwen, a deputy head of disease control for China's Henan province, was reportedly released from prison last week after being held for allegedly releasing state secrets about the AIDS epidemic in the province, Agence France-Presse reports. Ma's wife told reporters that her husband was released on October 16 without standing trial.

Shiwen was arrested in August for providing to an AIDS activist group a copy of a report on the HIV outbreak in Henan province, which has been linked to unsafe blood selling and collection practices in the 1980s and 1990s. As many as 1 million province residents were infected with HIV when blood brokers used dirty needles to withdraw blood from villagers. After usable plasma was removed from the donated blood, the remaining blood products were pooled and injected back into the villagers so they could more quickly recover and donate again sooner.

Another health official and AIDS activist in the region, Wan Yanhai, was arrested last year for leaking state AIDS secrets and then later released. Ma's release came just before a visit to China by U.S. Health and Human Services secretary Tommy Thompson. Police and government officials did not comment on Ma's release.