【China AIDS:5800】 南华早报关于田喜的两篇报告

1. HIV activists take on court of public opinion
Pair fight to banish 'the unfounded moral judgment' widely imposed on sufferers
Ng Tze-wei
Updated on Sep 22, 2010 
Two young men, both recently graduated from university, are fighting legal battles this month, one in Henan and the other in Anhui . But their battles go beyond the courtrooms: they are both victims of the Aids epidemic on the mainland and the discrimination that follows it.
Tian Xi , 23, landed on his head during a game with friends when he was 10 years old. He received a transfusion of four bags of blood at No1 People's Hospital in Xincai county, Henan, and has since kept contracting flu, which often torments him for weeks.
In 2004, the government ordered HIV tests for all those who donated blood or received transfusions in the mid-1990s, later confirmed to be the height of the disease's spread in the area due to illegal blood sales and shoddy transfusion practices. His blood test showed Tian had contracted the human immunodeficiency virus, as well as hepatitis B and C. He became a petitioner.
For Xiao Wu, 22, the past two months feel like a nightmare that refuses to end. He finished university in June and was looking forward to starting work as a teacher in a state secondary school. He passed the written tests and the interviews and got the job offer. However, his mandatory pre-hiring health check in July came back positive for HIV. He was devastated to learn he had contracted the deadly virus, but he had a more immediate worry - keeping the job. Xiao decided to sue the Education Department in Anqing , Anhui, because it withdrew the job offer after the health check.
Tian and Xiao are part of a new generation of mainlanders affected by HIV. They know their rights and are unwilling to wait passively for help, or to silently endure discrimination - even though the fight often comes at a price. Tian, whose HIV infection has developed into Aids, faced trial yesterday on the criminal charge of "intentionally damaging property" in Xincai county, after he swept items on a doctor's desk onto the floor in a rage last month.
Xiao became the first HIV-positive mainlander to successfully lodge an Aids-discrimination lawsuit with a mainland court early this month in Anqing. Net users have criticised him for being unreasonable. Why, they ask, should he be suing the government when he must have been morally corrupt to have contracted HIV?
The full extent of the Aids epidemic on the mainland remains an elusive topic, with the available data confusing and outdated. The most recent government figures, released in 2008, put the total number of people living with HIV and Aids at 700,000, with a death toll of 34,864. UNAids said that by 2007 there were 700,000 HIV carriers and an estimated 85,000 Aids patients. Activists say the figures could be 10 times higher.
Illegal blood sales and a government cover-up in poor rural villages in the mid 1990s resulted in an explosion of Aids cases, and ignorance of the condition means it is still spreading through unprotected sex, drug use and contaminated blood.
There is one thing the government and activists agree on: discrimination is severe, and possibly the biggest hurdle to preventing the spread of Aids. And it's a problem that will only become more obvious over time, as more of the young victims of the 1990s Aids epidemic - those born to parents with Aids or those who received contaminated blood - grow up. They might come from villages but they do not want to remain peasants. Like other young people, they want to find jobs in the cities.
Tian has always been hardworking, despite his condition. He is the first person in his family to make it to university and topped his class every year until senior high school, when his condition made it difficult for him to concentrate and memorise material. His parents still keep boxes of his school books at home because he doesn't want them thrown away.
"All his teachers loved him. In fact many of these books were gifts from them since they knew our family was poor," Tian's mother said, as she carefully swept the dust off the neatly stacked books.
When Tian found out about his HIV status shortly before taking the school-leaving examinations at 17, he thought of killing himself.
"We would often look at each other and then start crying," Tian's mother recalled. It took the encouragement of many relatives and teachers for him to regain his fighting spirit. "One teacher told him: `Medical techniques are improving, there'll be a way as long as you live'."
Tian passed the exam but decided to remain at school for a year to get better marks. In the meantime, he started on anti-retroviral medication and started petitioning.
He rode his bicycle between the hospital and government departments in Xincai asking for an explanation, always coming back empty-handed.
The next year he was admitted into a university in Beijing to study software engineering. He told the school he had Aids and despite initially wanting to dismiss him, it allowed him to stay on and found him off-campus accommodation. He also began working as a volunteer for a non-governmental organisation petitioning for the rights of people with HIV/Aids.
But the mental strain of keeping his Aids a secret made it difficult for Tian to make friends at university. He was also self-conscious about his flaky and scarred skin, a common problem with his condition. His father, Tian Demin , said his son never wears short sleeves.
Tian Xi could not find a job when he graduated last year, partly because of his average marks and partly because employers were wary of his history of petitioning.
He tried to sue the hospital for compensation, but no courts were willing to accept his case. A government-brokered settlement was reached, but not honoured.
Frustration grew, and Tian began shuttling between government departments again. Officials from the Ministry of Health's letters and complaints office sympathised with his case, and even issued an internal circular in April hailing his perseverance: "A self-respecting patient like him should deserve respect from others too ... right now, when he's most in need of assistance, who can give him a hand?"
The ministry's words fell on deaf ears in Xincai county. In July, Tian received a phone text message from the Xincai county party chief inviting him to discuss compensation. He returned home delighted with the news, but the meeting with the party chief was postponed again and again.
On August 2, Tian went to the hospital to confront the hospital chief, who again dismissed him and told him to talk to government officials. Tian swept items off the chief's table in a rage, and subsequently damaged the chief's office and the lock on his door at home. Tian's lawyer says he has already been punished for some of the damage.
Police took him away on an administrative detention charge on August 6, but released him the next day. Ten days later, more than 30 police showed up at the family's home, all dressed in biohazard protective gear, and took Tian to the No2 Xincai County Hospital, saying it was for medical treatment. Two days later, they removed him from the hospital without telling his family.
On August 21, Tian's parents received a notice dated three days earlier saying Tian had been criminally detained for "intentionally damaging property" and transferred to Shangcai county.
Tian Demin tried to deliver medicine to his son right away, because anti-retrovirals must be taken on a strict, daily basis. But the medicine only arrived two days later due to a police delay. His parents did not see Tian again until he went on trial yesterday.
"Tian is just a weak boy, weighing only a little more than 100 pounds (45 kilograms). Why do you need so many people to take him away, and dressed up in such eye-catching manner?" his father asked, saying he believed the county government was seeking to penalise his son for his years of petitioning. "Talking about discrimination, how could he continue living here in this village?
"Yes he's wrong in damaging the hospital's property, but the hospital could have sued us for civil compensation. We are willing to compensate; how about you? Are you willing to compensate for the damage you did to us?"
Aids medicine is practically free in most parts of the mainland, and Aids treatments are heavily subsidised. But Tian Demin said his son wanted compensation so he could start a small business, support himself and his parents, and pay for his medical bills, which would inevitably grow.
In the neighbouring province, Xiao Wu is still trying to grapple with the news that he has contracted HIV. He hasn't told his parents, relatives or friends and has instead scoured the internet for information about the virus. He also visited his local Aids prevention and treatment office, which gave him some basic information but could tell him little until the results of a second round of testing on his antibody levels come back from the city at the end of this month.
"They said that there's a dormant period of about eight to 10 years, and that with medical advancements, doctors might eventually find a cure," Xiao Wu said. However, at night, when it's all quiet and he's alone in his room, he can't help but worry about the future.
In Anqing early this month, he was busy preparing to begin teaching at a private school where he found a job at the last minute. However, he still wants to get his state secondary school job back, for reasons of both principle and practicality - private school jobs come with much lower salaries and benefits.
Mainland labour law prohibits employers from discriminating against HIV carriers. However, a health-check guideline for civil service recruitment still allows for testing for HIV. Xiao didn't know much about all this until he sought out a rights lawyer online, who agreed to help his case free of charge.
"Why is it that the law says one thing, and a ministry guideline says another?" Xiao asked. "My original goal was just to get my job back. But now I want to see this illegal guideline amended."
The case has also changed Xiao's concept of the freedoms and rights enjoyed by mainlanders, something he thought he had learned a lot about in school and had been planning to pass on to his students. He came across a lot of websites where people shared stories of how their rights were infringed, and how they fought to safeguard them.
How did he contract the virus? Xiao said he couldn't pinpoint the cause - and he didn't have time to investigate. Right now, he just wants his job back.
"Why should it matter? No one wants to contract such a deadly disease," Xiao Wu said. "I'm worried about being exposed, because discrimination against people with Aids is still very severe. Half of discrimination comes from health concerns. But I think what's more daunting is the unfounded moral judgment that comes with the disease."
Despite a much bigger government effort in promoting Aids awareness in the past decade, the only time Xiao learned anything about Aids during his secondary schooling came not in a science class but an English class, when one teaching text happened to mention the condition.
Copyright © 2010 South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All right reserved
2. Police detain protesting mother of Aids patient after trial
Verna Yu
Updated on Sep 22, 2010 
Amid tight security, an Aids patient turned activist went on trial in Henan yesterday on what supporters say are trumped-up charges.
Dozens of supporters were shocked to see police bundling the mother of Tian Xi into a vehicle after she protested outside the Shangcai county court after the trial, they said.
Tian Xi, 23, who contracted HIV and hepatitis B and C from a blood transfusion at a local hospital when he was nine, was charged with "intentionally damaging property" at a hospital in Xincai county, Henan.
He was detained last month after he lost his temper and smashed office equipment at the hospital where he was infected, angry that government and hospital officials had ignored his repeated pleas for compensation.
Tian became a thorn in the authorities' side after he started campaigning for himself and others who contracted HIV through tainted blood supplies. He also worked for the high-profile Aids advocacy group Aizhixing, whose director, Wan Yanhai, fled to the United States in May alleging government harassment. Yesterday, the court reserved judgment after the 3-1/2-hour trial, but was expected to deliver a verdict within a month and a half, lawyer Liang Xiaojun said.
Tian's father, Tian Demin , said his son was pale and gaunt after spending more than a month in custody and was visibly upset when he heard accusations levelled against him in court. In tears, he made an emotional statement insisting on his innocence.
"He said in a low voice: 'I will keep on petitioning until the government addresses my grievances, I will fight for my rights.' He broke down in tears," Tian Demin said.
After the trial, Tian Xi's mother, who was wearing the same type of white biohazard suit worn by the men who took her son away last month, wailed loudly as she walked out of the court. Police then dragged her into a vehicle, supporters said.
Her husband said she suffered a heart attack and police later transferred her to an ambulance. Later her husband said she was in stable condition. About a dozen unidentified men also tried to seize cameras and video recorders from some of Tian's supporters outside the court, but police did not stop them. Supporters said they were hired thugs from the local government.
Witnesses said dozens of police were standing guard outside the court and many police vehicles were also parked nearby. Dozens of supporters - rights activists, lawyers and Aids patients who had been helped by Tian Xi - also turned up in solidarity.
Shangcai police were not reachable for comment yesterday.
Before he was arrested, Tian had told friends that county officials resented his repeated protests and urged local police to detain him, saying he worked for an organisation with anti-government views. Mainland courts have long refused to handle cases of those who contracted HIV/Aids through blood transfusion in public hospitals, Aizhixing said.
Wan said Tian's case would serve to remind people about the plight of HIV/Aids victims. "Maybe (Tian) thinks that if nobody goes to jail, then people wouldn't pay attention to the Aids victims who were infected through blood transfusions," he said.
Copyright © 2010 South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All right reserved