The news article that led to the strengthening of safer medical practices in Chinese hospitals
In 2005, an AIDS epidemic in Xingtai, Hebei province had over 200 infected patients, including children. Investigative journalist Wang Keqin used official government documents, several years of media reports, and interviews with doctors as well as 34 AIDS patients to prove that the epidemic was caused in large part by Xingtai hospitals which were using and profiting off privately-sourced blood for transfusions, a practice that was illegal but common and known by local officials. The story drew the attention of many across China since this practice was also occurring in other provinces and cities.
After this story was published, censors banned major media outlets from mentioning Wang’s stories, but word got around as Wang emailed his stories to lawyers and interest groups. In early 2006, the Chinese government passed the Blood Station Management Law, which laid out clear standards for how blood should be collected and handled and put the Ministry of Health in charge of all blood stations.
About China Economic Times
The China Economic Times, founded in 1994, is a leading daily newspaper covering business and economics. It is funded by the Development Research Center of the State Council. It published many of Wang’s most influential stories, including one about the mishandling of vaccines in Shaanxi Province in 2010 that led to the deaths of four children. After that story was published, the editor and publisher of the paper were fired and Wang was forced to resign.
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Investigating the truth of the AIDS disease in Xingtai
Shangcai County of Henan Province is known as a hotbed of AIDS in China. The AIDS patients there have one thing in common — selling blood. However, a reporter of China Economic Times found a common trait among numerous AIDS patients in Xingtai, Hebei that was completely different. They sought medical services at a hospital. The hospital provided a blood transfusion. They were then diagnosed with AIDS.
The Ministry of Health announced that the spread of AIDS in China is now mostly the result of blood transfusion, which accounted for 72.6%. The Department of Health of Hebei Province announced that 80% of the AIDS patients in Hebei were infected as a result of blood transfusion.
What is the connection between “blood transfusions in the hospital” and HIV infections? How did it all happen? How are the AIDS patients coping with the disease? How do the authorities explain this? What threats does the AIDS epidemic in Xingtai pose to the society?
In July and November 2005, the reporter conducted investigations in areas administered by Xingtai, Hebei Province, including Qiaoxi District, Qiaodong District, Julu County, Shahe City, Wei County, Baixiang County, Xingtai County, Ningjin County, Guangzong County, Pingxiang County, Ren County, and Wu’an City (administered by Handan) which was adjacent to Shahe City.
The reporter entered homes in villages and interviewed 10 children suffering from AIDS. He personally met 8 children with the “HIV Antibody Test Confirmation Report” issued by the Hebei Provincial AIDS Monitoring Center.
“Life is not worth living!” sighed Zhang Jilu who is father to Tiantian (alias), a child suffering from AIDS. The same feeling is shared by many families of AIDS patients interviewed by the reporter.
During the interview, almost all AIDS patients and their families stated that the hospitals were to blame. The infected blood transfused by the hospitals was the cause of their misery today.
“80% to 90% of the AIDS patients in Xingtai were infected by blood transfusions,” AIDS patients and their family members told the reporter.
Regardless of the explanation provided by Xingtai authorities, many AIDS patients and their family members pointed the finger at the hospitals. Hospitals in Xingtai that have already defended themselves in court include Kangtai Hospital, Xiandewang Coal Miners’ Hospital, Xingtai, Xingtai People’s Hospital, and the Second Hospital of Xingtai.
Data show that private blood collection was a common practice in hospitals of all counties in Xingtai City in the mid-1990s.
In 1998, Li Qianji, a staff member of the Xingtai Central Blood Station, conducted a personal investigation of the private blood collection by most counties in Xingtai. He also wrote an article titled “Private Blood Collection: Life-Threatening Secrets” and published it in the Hebei Daily on May 20. The article stated that when blood transfusion is needed for a surgery, the hospital usually lets the patient find the blood. Patients’ family members who are unfamiliar with the process must rely on the guidance of the more informed and seek help from “blood sellers” to buy blood. The hospitals are only responsible for testing the blood type and refuse to do more.
According to public records, since the implementation of the “Law on Blood Donation” in August 1998, Xingtai Blood Donation Office could not complete the planned blood donation drive. With the approval from Jia Dongyang, the Deputy Director of the Bureau of Health of Xingtai, the managers of the Xingtai Blood Donation Office arranged staff members of the Xingtai Central Blood Station to contact farmers through “contact persons”. 1,668 farmers were asked to donate blood at the Xingtai Central Blood Station and 239 of them donated blood before the minimum interval period between donations was up.
Why are hospitals willing to bear the risks of investigations and penalties for using privately collected blood?
They claimed that they are “helping patients save money and time”.
According to investigations conducted by the reporter of China Economic Times, patients pay RMB 460 for a 400ml bag of blood from the blood station. The hospital can only add a test fee of approximately RMB 30 on top of the cost. If the blood was privately collected, the hospital is only required to pay approximately RMB 180 to the donor. The hospital may determine how to divide the remaining fees. Some hospitals offer even less payment to donors. Therefore, the hospital earns approximately RMB 300 for every bag of blood.
Just how messy is the private blood collection in Xingtai or Hebei?
In a speech on April 8, 1995, Yang Qian, Vice Governor of Hebei Province, stated “Certain areas, certain entities, and certain individuals have transformed blood donation institutions into a third industry for profit. We now have a rush to build blood and plasma collection stations with hospitals, disease prevention stations, health departments, township governments, and even individuals. We have 22 blood donation stations in Hebei Province, of which 3 were never approved and 5 have extensive issues. We have 14 plasma collection stations but only 1 was approved. We have 10 blood collection stations that have not been approved and only 1 of the 132 hospital blood banks that collect and supply blood was approved.”
Based on mounting evidence, the fact that blood collection and transfusion in certain period before and after 1995 had caused the spread of AIDS is indisputable. Once the fire is out of control, it could burn down the entire forest.
In the investigation, the reporter felt the presence of numerous social issues created by the AIDS epidemic in Xingtai. For instance, many of the people interviewed have no clue regarding the AIDS epidemic happening right next to them. Many AIDS patients and their family members bear immense physical, mental, and economic pressure but can barely receive any emergency relief. The authorities’ disease prevention measures for AIDS are barely adequate. Certain AIDS patients have developed a mentality for “getting back at the society”…
“Come here, my daughter. Mommy can’t comb your hair much longer. Your father doesn’t know how to comb it, let me cut it.” “
8-year-old Tiantian (alias) once had beautiful long hair like any other girl. Two years ago, her mother “heartlessly” cut off Tiantian’s beautiful long black hair as she was confined to her bed at home during her final days. Tiantian has kept her hair short since then. If it weren’t for her large dress, she looked more like a boy.
Like all mothers, Tiantian’s mother wanted her daughter to be pretty. Why would she want to cut off her daughter’s beautiful hair?
It’s the last act of love for her only descendant by a mother who was approaching the end of her time in this world and barely holding on to life.
Soon after Tiantian’s long hair was cut, mother was gone forever, leaving only Tiantian and her father who was drowning in pain.
Tiantian’s mother died on her 34th birthday of AIDS and complications. Tiantian is now in third grade in the village elementary school and she was also diagnosed with AIDS.
Tiantian lives in Zhanggou Village, Cejing Township, Shahe City, Hebei Province. It is a mountain village far away from the city.
On November 23, 2005, the reporter visited Tiantian’s home for the third time to check on the timid but adorable little girl and her father Zhang Jilu.
The house had walls in the yard built with broken bricks and a wooden door made with seven or eight wooden planks. It stood in stark contrast with the neatly arranged yards and houses of neighbors on both sides of the house. In the middle of the yard were two plain red brick houses. One of them contained a double bed which took up one third of the house.
Tiantian’s mother passed away on this bed. Now, Tiantian and her father sleep on this bed.
Tiantian’s father Zhang Jilu took out a white note from a box. The text on the note written in red ink read “My beloved wife, born October 10, 1970 and died at 8 a.m., October 10, 2003 aged 34 of a wrongful death.” (Reporter’s note: Dates based on the Chinese calendar.)
Tiantian’s mother was a simple woman living in a farming village. How did she contract AIDS? How did the “wrongful death” happen? How could Tiantian, an 8-year-old girl, be HIV positive?
How Tiantian’s mother died
Like most children around her, Tiantian had a happy family.
In early September 2005, Zhang Jilu wrote to the reporter. His letter read:
I married my late wife in 1995. We were like regular folks. I worked on the farm and she did the housework. We were not well off but we were doing okay. My daughter was born in 1997 and that brought joy and life to our home. I worked odd jobs out of town and my wife stayed home to look after the family and farm. We dreamed of a better future. Although my wife repeated complained about having a cold, fever, runny nose, and fatigue, and my daughter often had parotitis and fever, these issues did not raise alarms for the impending disaster and we thought they were common ailments.
During the harvest season in the fall of 2003, my wife had ulcers in her mouth and was always tired. She didn’t want to eat and the symptoms persisted despite treatment. At around midnight on September 15 of the Gregorian calendar, I was woken by my wife in my sleep. She told me she wasn’t feeling very well and wanted to go to the hospital.
Early the next morning, I took my wife to the hospital in the city. The test results showed: Suspect AIDS. They told us to go to the Xingtai Disease Prevention and Control Center and the preliminary diagnosis was AIDS. It was later confirmed by the Provincial Disease Prevention and Control Center.
When we were told the test results by the Xingtai Disease Prevention and Control Center, my wife and I were shocked and speechless. We were quiet because we knew what would happen. I was shocked beyond words but I had to calm down. I pretended everything would be okay and comforted my wife. I told her that the doctor said the test results are not always accurate, and I brought her home.
We followed the recommendation of the Disease Prevention and Control Center and I took my daughter to get tested on the next day. The result was another shock. My daughter tested HIV positive.
(Zhang Jilu showed the reporter two copies of the “HIV Antibody Test Confirmation Report” of the mother and daughter. The Hebei Provincial AIDS Monitoring Center issued the final confirmed diagnosis report on September 24, 2003. )
When I returned, my wife frantically asked me about Tiantian. I couldn’t tell her the truth and I only said that Tiantian was fine. I saw a glimmer of relief in my wife’s anguished eyes but I could no longer contain my emotions. I was afraid to face my wife. I hid myself in the bathroom and broke down.
“Her confirmed diagnosis to her death only took 40 days, “
Zhang Jilu told the reporter. “When my wife was ailing, she refused to take her medicine because she knew that she had no chance of survival. The disease was fatal. I know her other motive. We were not rich and she didn’t want to increase the economic burden of the family. But I didn’t want to her to lose her life just that like and I held on to a hopeless possibility. I pleaded with my poor wife to accept the treatment and I asked a friend to ask for treatments at Beijing Ditan Hospital. The results were all disappointing.”
For a little over 20 days after returning from Xingtai, my wife could still go to the bathroom with my help and sit for a while in the yard. However, her hearing deteriorated quickly and the ulcers in her mouth worsened every day.”
On the day of Shuangjiang, “she told her brother who was visiting that she had no strength left in her body.”
Zhang Jilu wrote in his letter:
That night, I held my dying wife’s hand and said: “Talk to me, please.” She looked at me and said in a very weak voice that she was sorry for not giving me a son. She wanted me to marry again and have a boy or adopt one so that I would have someone to take care of me and Tiantian.
I broke down for the first time in front of my wonderful wife. I told her not to worry about me and watch over the child. If something happens to Tiantian, you must come and take me with you (she didn’t know that the child was HIV positive and I couldn’t bear to tell her the truth as it wouldn’t help her at all). The child’s future was unknown. Although I survived, there was nothing left to live for. Life is not worth living and I have nothing but endless hate.
That was to be my last conversation with my wife. In the days that remained, she couldn’t get up from the bed and could no longer hear us. Her throat could no longer make sounds. Although I saw her muttering things, I could no longer make out her speech. From October 7 to 9 on the Chinese calendar, the last three days before her death, my wife found it nearly impossible to eat. When I tried to feed her the herbal medicine I brewed, she couldn’t swallow it. The liquid food I bought could only be delivered slowly from a corner of her mouth. She had difficulty breathing and had sputum in her throat. I made gestures for her to cough it out but she failed.
October 10 on the Chinese calendar will always be the worst day in my life. It should never have happened.
I was making breakfast for my daughter early in the morning when I heard a faint call from my wife. My heart sunk and I rushed to her side to find her barely breathing. She tried again and again to say what sounded like “Tiantian” and I quickly called the child to her side. I told her that the Tiantian is here and she doesn’t need to worry. I won’t let anything happen to her. As my wife slowly closed her eyes, I cried and called to her to come back. Don’t go! You shouldn’t go! Tiantian and I need you.
A young life, a wonderful wife and mother, someone with so many things undone, left this world with bitterness and her husband and child still on her mind. She was only 34.
Heartbroken, I stayed by my wife’s side and teared flowed down. I looked out at the sky outside the window. The heavens and earth seemed endless. God, what did my wife do to deserve this? It wasn’t supposed to happen. My child was born innocent and guiltless. Why give life to someone just to see it wither away? What crime have I committed that has made my life a living hell? I slammed my head on the ground. What unforgivable sin did I commit? Why is my family broken and my wife gone? Was it a mistake to give birth at the hospital? Hospitals are supposed to help people!
Tiantian’s mother was young when AIDS took her. How did Tiantian’s mother contract AIDS?
“She died needlessly!”
“The hospital killed my wife and child!”
Zhang Jilu had been a career soldier. He took out a dagger from the cabinet. It was a souvenir from his service on the front line during the Sino-Vietnamese War. “If it weren’t for the promise I made to my wife or that my child would have no one if I die, I would have fought them already!”
The reporter has met Zhang Jilu three times and the man was always in tears. When he got agitated, he cracked his fists and I felt that he was about to explode.
“Men don’t cry easily but the sadness will reach the breaking point. Such injustice!”
AIDS is transmitted by sexual intercourse, blood transfusion, and from mother to infant. It has been confirmed that I don’t have the disease. My wife grew up in the valley and had never been in contact with anyone with the disease. Everyone in the village can attest to my wife’s virtues.”
The only possible reason is blood transfusion. She’s had just one transfusion in her life when she gave birth to Tiantian. The hospital gave her HIV in the transfusion. She nursed Tiantian and infected her as well.”
The information provided by Zhang Jilu to the reporter showed:
On September 18, 1997, my wife was hospitalized in room 16 on the second floor of Kangtai Hospital in Shahe due to childbirth. We paid RMB 1,000 in medical expenses for the first transfusion. The hospital conducted regular tests and began the transfusion.
According to the regular blood test, my wife had anemia due to the pregnancy and needed a blood transfusion. The hospital then transfused 800ml of blood (the donor’s surname was Wang and I forgot the first because it was such a long time ago) to my wife on August 18 on the Chinese calendar. We paid RMB 920 in cash.
In the evening on September 26, or August 25 on the Chinese calendar, my wife went into labor and a C-section was required due to difficulties in labor. I signed on the surgery approval form and she entered the operating room at around 9 p.m. (the doctors in the surgery included Wang Shunying, the attending physician Xiaoma — name unknown, head nurse Han Xianmei, oxygen administrator — name unknown, anesthesiologist — ad hoc appointee of the hospital and name unknown).
At approximately 23:30, the head nurse Han Xianmei brought my daughter to me and told me that she was born at 23:15. We went to the labor room on the first floor together to weigh her.
At about 1 a.m. on the next day, my wife was wheeled out of the operating room. After the regular medicine was transfused, another 400ml of blood was transfused and I paid RMB 460 in cash (the donor’s surname was Xu and I don’t remember the name).
After 7 days of recovery and observation, she was discharged on September 3 on the Chinese calendar (October 4 of the Gregorian calendar) and we paid an additional RMB 1,000 for medical expenses. During this period, my daughter had a fever and only recovered after treatment.
After giving birth to my daughter, my wife often got sick and often had a fever. As time went on, she began to eat less and she suffered from general weakness, weakness in the limbs, and insomnia. My daughter often had a cold, fever, and parotitis. We sought treatment everywhere but they were not effective.
In September 2003, Zhang Jilu’s wife and child were given the “death sentence”.
Zhang Jilu based his opinions on four reasons:
Where did the virus come from? I believe that the only reason is the blood transfusion when she was hospitalized in Kangtai Hospital.
First, the hospital transfused 1,200ml of blood to my wife when she was hospitalized (twice: 800ml the first time and 400ml the second time). The source of the blood was private blood collection (Wang Shunying told me that they had their own blood transfusion team and all members had health certificates). Second, my wife’s health has deteriorated after giving birth to my daughter and it worsened recently. The symptoms, pattern, and incubation period were consistent with HIV. Third, the hospital’s source for blood transfusion was illegal blood collection and transfusion. This is a hidden hazard that must be addressed. Fourth, my daughter has this disease and the cause must be her mother’s blood transfusion or nursing. There is no doubt about it.
Based on the aforementioned reasons, I believe that the severe human-error harm was completely caused by Kangtai Hospital’s failure to conduct inspections in the blood collection and transfusion process, and its illegal blood collection. It has threatened the safety of my wife and daughter and heartlessly deprived them of their right to health. It has broken my once happy family, put me at risk of infection, and made me live in terror of life and death every day.
Zhang Jilu has demanded an explanation from the hospital many times. He told the reporter that “They asked me to show them the blood transfusion form. I told them that they had all the forms. I then understood. We didn’t even get medical records when we were discharged. I kept asking them for the medical records and they have not complied. How can farmers like us win a lawsuit against them?”
Is that how it works? The reporter paid two visits to Kangtai Hospital in Xiandewang Town, Shahe City for confirmation, but was told on both occasions that “the supervisor is not here”. The reporter later called the hospital and an employee who declined to disclose his/her name told the reporter “Our hospital implements blood management in accordance with regulations and we don’t have any problems.”
Painful life of father and daughter
“All pain and anguish concentrated in one family. Unprecedented wrongful suffering inflicted upon one man. There is no fairness left in this world!” These words were written by Zhang Jilu on the back of the only family photo he has in his home.
AIDS not only took away the life of Zhang Jilu’s wife and deprived Tiantian’s right to life, but also threatens his life and health at all times.
At the same time, the “AIDS complications” sent shock waves that erupted around Tiantian and her father.
“People avoided us like the plague,” Zhang Jilu said.
Ever since Tiantian and her mother’s confirmed diagnosis became known, “We couldn’t hide it anymore and the news spread rapidly in the village. People never looked at us the same way again.”
After burying his wife, the combat engineer with level 2 unit citation in the Battle of Laoshan lost his job in the coal preparation plant nearby. “All my attempts to explain failed and they didn’t believe anything I said. Nobody was willing to work with me. The RMB 800 he earned from the job each month was the main source of income of the family and now he has no source of income at all. He paid for Tiantian’s tuition by selling food.”
I’ve always wanted to sue them but now I can’t even afford the bus ride to Xingtai.”
I wanted to work elsewhere but who’s going to take care of Tiantian when I’m away?”
Now, Zhang Jilu must play the roles of both father and mother. “I know the child is sick and I can’t let her go hungry! We may not have good food but she must be fed! Nobody is willing to take care of this child. After Tiantian’s mother died, even her grandparents and uncle rarely visit, let alone anyone else!”
Zhang Jilu continued to farm on the scant 3 mus of family land and could only concentrate on being Tiantian’s caregiver. He said “We couldn’t really visit other people’s homes as it could embarrass other people.” After his wife died, he has never had so much as a sip of water in other people’s homes, to say nothing of doing anything else.
“Although it wasn’t our fault, we feel like lower-class citizens when we meet anyone.”
“Everyone mistrusts me.”
“Other people live happy lives but my family is broken and my wife is dead.”
“I’m in my prime but I can’t make much of a living.”
“Life is not worth living!”
“Whenever I think about it, I don’t really want to live anymore!”
In the letter he sent the reporter, he said:
The worst thing is that after my wife left, Tiantian and I became a news item in the village and the topic of people’s conversations. My daughter often gets bullied by other students in school. When Tiantian comes home and tells me “Daddy, they say I have AIDS,” it breaks my heart and I’d hold her in my arms and cry. I’d lie to her and say “Tian, don’t believe them. Ignore them and just keep studying.”
Children are simple. After listening to my comforting words for some time, she stopped talking about it. I know that the words merely reflect what the parents of these children say about me. Although they say nothing about it to my face and some might offer a few words of comfort, I could tell from the look in their eyes that they have a grudge against me.
They’re people and they’re my people. I understand how they feel, but who understands how I feel?
In response to all the gossip, I was left with no choice but to remain silent because any explanation would fall on deaf ears and no one would believe me. I can only let it be and live my life like a crook even though I’m not a crook. I forget about the moral character and dignity and live on the margins of society. Sometimes, I really can’t take it anymore. I’d come home, close the door, and cry my heart out to the photo of my dead wife. I’d tell myself to bear with it, wipe away the tears, and say nothing at all. An ancient philosopher once said: Why do I feel such loneliness? I am the only person who understands such sorrow. Whoever finds himself in the same position would understand how I feel now.
Sometimes, I really want to end this it all and take my revenge against Kangtai with my dagger. But I can’t do that because of Tiantian. I’m the only family she has left. The only person in the world who loves her is her father. She can’t lose me.
“A child without a mother is like a weed!”
Zhang Jilu said “Dae Jang Geum was aired on TV recently. Tiantian loves watching TV and but the show made her cry. She kept calling ‘mommy, mommy, I want mommy!’ I was as heartbroken as one could get. When it happens, I could only hold her and cry with her.”
As he described what happened, the reporter could see that his tears had soaked his sleeve.
Zhang Jilu said that he had told Tiantian repeatedly “Tian, you must remember. Your mother died needlessly. She was a very very good person. Daddy can’t avenge her, but you must avenge her!”
Zhang Jilu said “Tiantian’s mother was such a good person. In the final days of her life, she still cared about other people. Whenever a doctor came and injected her with liquids, she wouldn’t let the doctor leave with the syringe, and would ask the doctor to destroy it then and there. Her request always broke my heart.”
Zhang Jilu had sworn an oath before the grave of Tiantian’s mother: “I live for only two purposes now. The first is to honor your last wish and take care of Tiantian. The second is to do everything I can to seek justice for you and Tiantian.”
Zhang Jilu said “I believe the laws of the state will restore justice for us, but I don’t have the capacity to sue them right now. They are powerful and have connections. I’m just a poor farmer and no match for them.”
He was concerned about both the injustice and the child.
How long can Tiantian live? Would she ever grow up to adulthood? Can she ever be married? “I have no idea about any of this but I must do my duty as her father.”
The reporter saw a large certificate of merit posted on the wall facing the door of his house. It reads “Zhang XX was ranked first in second grade in the final exam in the first semester of 2004-2005 academic year”.
Tiantian dreams of going to university and becoming a scientist when she grows up.
Zhang Jilu said “I don’t know how my daughter’s future will turn out and I don’t know how long she has to live, but I must live for her. Even if life is not worth living now, I must hold on.”
Tiantian is not the only child diagnosed with AIDS in Xingtai, Hebei.
In July and November 2005, the reporter conducted investigations in areas administered by Xingtai, including Qiaoxi District, Qiaodong District, Julu County, Shahe City, Wei County, Baixiang County, Xingtai County, Ningjin County, Guangzong County, Pingxiang County, Ren County, and Wu’an City (administered by Handan) which was adjacent to Shahe City.
The reporter entered homes in villages and interviewed 10 children suffering from AIDS. He personally met 8 children with the “HIV Antibody Test Confirmation Report” issued by the Hebei Provincial AIDS Monitoring Center. Like Tiantian, they were all HIV positive.
Xuexue (alias), an 8-year-old girl, was in first grade. Her mother died of AIDS.
On July 12, 2005, the reporter met Xuexue in a small mountain village in Chaiguan Township, Shahe City. She was doing her homework in her house. Xuexue looked just like any other child. Her hair was held in place by a butterfly hairpin. Xuexue had much more luck than Tiantian. She had two sisters and a grandmother who doted on her. However, her mother still succumbed to AIDS and died on June 18, 2002 on the Chinese calendar.
Xuexue’s eldest sister was 17 and provided the reporter with information along with other family members. Xuexue’s mother had been healthy. She gave birth to Xuexue on the bed-stove at home on May 19, 1997 on the Chinese calendar, and suffered a massive hemorrhage. The family rushed her to the closest hospital — Kangtai Hospital in Shahe City — for emergency medical treatment and blood transfusion. “I don’t know how many bags of blood they gave her. After returning from the hospital, she began to have fevers and anemia, and went to the bathroom all the time even though she had been perfectly healthy. We thought it was a cold but the treatments didn’t work. We also thought it could be pneumonia, but we learned that it was this disease when cases were confirmed in that hospital. The hospital didn’t want to treat such patients and we brought her home. She died soon afterwards.”
Everyone in the family was tested and everyone was okay. Only my little sister was infected. She was nursed by my mother after the blood transfusion.”
Xuexue’s father currently works as a coal miner in the lower pits of a coal mine nearby. “I could make RMB 700 or 800 every month.” They said “We want justice but we’re afraid of going to court. If we go to court, this thing will become public. Imagine the things the family must deal with!”
When the reporter visited Xuexue again on November 23, 2005, she recited for the reporter her favorite part of the course materials titled “The Little Crow and Mommy”. When she got to the part “In the forest lived Mommy Crow… The Little Crow rested in Mommy’s arms and they are so warm,” tears flowed down her eyes into her mouth. They flowed down her chin and dripped onto her shirt, which soon became soaked.
Shanshan (alias), a 9-year-old boy, was in third grade. His mother died of AIDS and his father was also HIV positive.
Shanshan lives with his grandmother, father, and sister in a village in Chaiguan Township, Shahe City. When the reporter met Shanshan, he was just returning from playing with a group of children on the road outside the courtyard and his face was still sweaty.
Shanshan’s father told the reporter “His mother gave birth to him in October 1996 on the Chinese calendar. She was hospitalized in Kangtai Hospital in Shahe City. The hospital kept trying to convince me to get her a blood transfusion before the child was even born. I was opposed. I asked them to perform a blood transfusion only if it was necessary, and don’t do it if it wasn’t necessary. But the doctor pulled me aside several times to request the blood transfusion. There was no other way but to listen to the doctor. She gave birth to Shanshan two weeks after the blood transfusion.”
After returning home, she never visited a hospital again until early 2004. She often felt sick and vomited and we took her to Xingtai People’s Hospital on January 8 on the Chinese calendar where she was diagnosed with this disease. After she came back, she was given IV fluids in the local hospital for a few days and she died.”
All family members were tested and the results showed that Shanshan and his father were HIV positive. Shanshan’s sister was three years older and her test results were normal. His grandmother’s test results were also normal.
Dandan (alias), an 8-year-old girl, was in first grade. Her mother died of AIDS and her father was HIV positive.
The reporter met Dandan’s current family members, including her father, grandfather, and her, in a village in Cejing Township, Shahe City. Dandan’s father told the reporter that Dandan’s mother had two blood transfusions: In January 1997 on the Chinese calendar, she received a blood transfusion with two small bags of blood in Kangtai Hospital in Shahe City due to anemia. October 25, 1998 on the Chinese calendar, she suffered a massive hemorrhage when giving birth to Dandan and was given another two bags of blood in Kangtai Hospital.
Dandan’s father told the reporter “We were completely oblivious. In 2003, Shahe City tested all the people who had received blood transfusions in the local hospital in the mid-1990s and Dandan’s mother tested positive. They administered more tests and found that in addition to Dandan’s mother, Dandan and I also had AIDS.”
“Before the diagnosis, her mother was often in pain and often had a fever. We followed regular treatments for fever and she usually had to receive intravenous treatment for a week. She was treated 3 or 4 times every year. After she was diagnosed with AIDS, they found that she also had tuberculosis. We treated that first but she never recovered from tuberculosis and she died.”
Dandan’s mother died on June 3, 2004 on the Chinese calendar. Like other patients surveyed by the reporter, she could only return home and die at home.
Dandan’s father said “Why did they give healthy people blood transfusions? But the doctor kept pulling me aside and said ‘the anemia is serious and you should agree to the blood transfusion immediately.’ We were just farmers and we knew nothing. Since doctor suggested blood transfusion, we could only pay for the blood.”
The reporter saw garbage piled up in the yard of Dandan’s home. Dandan’s grandfather told the reporter “I collect recyclable waste. We are so short on money and my son is sick. He can’t do hard manual labor and can’t earn much. If I don’t collect waste to sell, the kid can’t go to school.”
Haohao (alias) was a 6-year-old boy. His parents were both HIV positive.
When the reporter met Haohao in a village in Baita Town, Shahe City, he was topless and was only wearing a pair of dark blue shorts as he played on the street in front of his house.
There are 5 people in Haohao’s family, including his parents, Haohao, and two elder sisters, aged 13 and 10.
Haohao’s mother told the reporter “I had a miscarriage at home on March 21, 1996 on the Chinese calendar. I was taken to the Xiandewang Coal Miners’ Hospital in Xiandewang, Shahe City for treatment and blood transfusion. I was given a bag of blood and it cost RMB 800. The hospital called for someone to take their blood for transfusion to me.”
“I’ve never had another blood transfusion other than this one. “In December 2003, the Township Health Department took my blood for tests because they knew I had a blood transfusion. In the spring of 2004, I learned that I had AIDS.”
All 5 family members had their blood tested. “The final results showed that his father and the youngest child were infected. He was born in 1999 which was after I had the blood transfusion in the hospital.”
She told the reporter that “My husband can still work but we can’t do hard manual labor. We eat and live normally but we often catch the cold. To deal with all this, I could only get medicine from the Township Health Department and try to control it.”
Nannan (alias), an 8-year-old girl, was in second grade. Her mother died of AIDS.
In a fairly sizable village in Longhua Town, Baixiang County, Xingtai, the reporter found Nannan’s home in the village by claiming to be visiting relatives. The 8-year-old girl had long hair and a bright bow on the top of her head and she sported a shirt with a running deer etched on it. If the reporter hadn’t been informed that she had AIDS, no one could suspect that such a cute child could be HIV positive.
Nannan currently lives with her grandfather, grandmother, and father. Her 65-year-old grandfather and 38-year-old father are working away from home. Her grandmother, holding crutches, and her grandfather’s elder brother told the reporter “The child has suffered. Her mother died on April 11, 2004 on the Chinese calendar. She was gone in 8 days after she returned from Beijing. Nannan’s mother was from Yunnan and she was taken by someone from Yunnan years ago. Her father was 28 and still unmarried. He asked to marry her in 1996 and she gave birth to her daughter the next year. She suffered a massive hemorrhage when she was giving birth to her and had a blood transfusion in the hospital. She had another blood transfusion when she fell ill in 2002. It shocked us when she got the disease and the child was also infected.”
Nannan’s grandmother tried to stand up but failed repeatedly. When the reporter helped her up, she said “Our family members are old and sick. God, how are we supposed to survive?” Tears flowed down her cheeks.
Tiantian (alias), an 8-year-old girl, was in third grade. Her mother died of AIDS.
Her story was told in the preceding chapters and will not be repeated here.
Jiajia (alias), an 8-year-old girl, was in third grade. Her mother died of AIDS.
Jiajia’s family lives in Yicheng Town, Wu’an (administered by Handan), only 3 or 4 kilometers from Kangtai Hospital in Shahe City. Her father told the reporter
“There were 4 people in our family, including Jiajia, her brother, my wife, and I. My wife gave birth to Jiajia on August 1, 1997. Three days later, the President of the Hospital Wang Shunying told me that ‘You should give her a transfusion for her to recover faster.’ She kept trying to convince me. My parents-in-law were present on several such occasions. My wife was only 28 and was in good health but I thought that the doctor was trying to help us and I couldn’t let the parents think I was uncaring. So, we had the blood transfusion.
“One year later, my wife had a fever that wouldn’t go away and showed other symptoms. We sought medical assistance from small clinics all the way to large hospitals for a year, and then she was diagnosed with AIDS. She died on May 16, 1999. Jiajia was diagnosed as HIV positive. Fortunately, my son and I were not.”
Zhuangzhuang (alias) was 8 years old and was in third grade. His mother was HIV positive.
On November 10, 2005, Zhuangzhuang came to the reporter’s office with his mother and four relatives. That was the first time the reporter met Zhuangzhuang. He had a white round face with red cheeks, big eyes, and appeared to be a fine specimen of a strong healthy boy. He wore a denim shirt with animals etched on it and looked for all the world like a well-fed chubby boy.
If it were not for his and his mother’s “HIV Antibody Test Confirmation Report”, the reporter could never have guessed that Zhuangzhuang had AIDS. However, the unmistakable proof was right there.
Zhuangzhuang’s mother told the reporter “I married Zhuangzhuang’s father in 1994 and we lived in Xinzhuang Village, Shahe City. We had a happy family life. However, when the Xingtai Disease Prevention and Control Center came to Xinzhuang Village to conduct general tests on March 22 this year (2005), I was diagnosed as HIV positive. What happened next was even worse. My 8-year-old boy was diagnosed as HIV positive on April 12.”
It was fortunate that her husband did not have AIDS. Zhuangzhuang’s mother told the reporter “In the last 10 years, our family has always been law-abiding citizens without any record of misconduct. My husband and I never worked in other places. It was baffling. How could my 8-year-old son, someone so young, contract AIDS? According to the analysis by experts of the Xingtai Disease Prevention and Control Center, the only way that my son and I could be infected with AIDS was my blood transfusion, and the mother-to-child transmission of HIV. The only blood transfusion I ever had occurred at Xiandewang Coal Miners’ Hospital when I was in labor. The doctor that encouraged me to get a blood transfusion also admitted that the blood I received was privately collected blood from illegal sources.”
In addition to meeting the aforementioned 8 HIV-positive children with the “HIV Antibody Test Confirmation Report”, the reporter also interviewed two children who had AIDS — a 4-year-old girl named Tingting (alias) and an 11-year-old boy named Ganggang (alias).
The interview with Tingting was as follows. The reporter followed a lead to a village in Chaiguan Township, Shahe City and found Tingting’s uncle. He told the reporter that his brother was already dead and the child and her mother were sick and already left the village. He then declined to answer any more questions and closed the door.
The interview with Ganggang was as follows. The reporter followed yet another a lead to Ganggang’s house in a village in Cejing Township, Shahe City. The reporter saw Ganggang who was playing in the yard in his home. His mother nodded her head but did not respond directly to the reporter’s question. She then shook her head and told the reporter “Please go. Our child still has a life to live here and must marry and start a family.”
These were just the children with AIDS that the reporter had interviewed in three visits in Xingtai. Li Qianji is a staff member of the Xingtai Central Blood Station who has been an advocate for AIDS patients in Xingtai and provided them with emergency relief. He told the reporter “There are at least 20 children diagnosed with AIDS in Xingtai and at least 200 people who are HIV positive.”
Many children were HIV positive and cases of death were found in almost every place the reporter visited. The reporter interviewed a total of 34 AIDS patients and those infected with HIV in three visits. 14 patients have died and the graves of many of the deceased were covered with fresh soil. The individual who took the reporter on this trip told the reporter that interviewing AIDS patients in Xingtai was like looking for dead people because the reporter always received answers like “she’s already dead” or “he’s already dead”.
“Death is a relief. For those that survived, life is not worth living!” Many interviewees expressed the same feeling.
“Life is not worth living!”
sighed Zhang Jilu who is father to Tiantian, a child suffering from AIDS. The same feeling is shared by many families of AIDS patients interviewed by the reporter.
“If you know what it feels like to have a thousand knives thrust into your heart and ten thousand needles on your back, you’d know how I feel.”
“Talking about it won’t help at all. Our family is gone and the ones still around are just the walking dead.”
The reporter interviewed many families which were given the “death sentence” by AIDS. For them, death was “only a matter of time.”
The father of Dandan, a girl with AIDS living in a village in Baita Town, Shahe City, was agitated when he told the reporter “The hospital killed my entire family!”
All members of Dandan’s family, including her parents and her, were diagnosed with AIDS, and only the 61-year-old grandfather was spared. Her mother was already dead. Dandan’s father said “I don’t know how long my daughter and I have left. We’ve been sentenced to die and it’s only a matter of time.”
Dandan’s father said that life is not worth living at all. “I often thought about getting myself killed, but I have my father to take care of. How could I just die like that?”
No justice for dead AIDS patients
“They could not rest in peace!”
“Many people still didn’t know what was going on till the moment of their death. They just died without knowing why.”
The relatives of the deceased said “How did law-abiding farmers get infected with AIDS?”
“Some did eventually find out that they had AIDS, but they never learned how they got infected even after they died.”
Wang Shuqiang, a 39-year-old farmer in Wei County, Xingtai died that way without ever knowing why.
On July 13, 2003, Wang Shuqiang was hospitalized for a liver condition in the only AAA hospital in Xingtai — Xingtai People’s Hospital. The hospital tested Wang’s blood and results showed that Wang was HIV negative. After that, the hospital transfused 630ml of blood in three separate transfusions. A few days later, as the treatment was ineffective, Wang was transferred to the Second Hospital of Xingtai, which was cheaper.
When he was admitted, the hospital tested his blood and found that he was infected with HIV.
“After they had the test results, the Second Hospital of Xingtai refused to treat him, forcibly discharged him, and sent him home.” Want’s family said.
A month later, Wang’s village official received a “Notification” with the official seal of Wei County government which required them to “implement monitoring and control as well as disease prevention tasks on the patient and his family members”. The village official told Wang’s wife “His blood is infected and he cannot leave the house. He must be isolated.” The village official also stated “The government has implemented regulations. If you infect other people, you will bear legal liabilities.” Wang’s wife said “Well, who will bear legal liabilities if we are infected?”
On the one hand, the County Government implemented “monitoring and control” on Wang Shuqiang and his family. On the other hand, “before he died, no one from the disease prevention station ever came to help or provided any medicine.”
Wang Shuqiang was locked in a room by himself and his meals were delivered by family members. The two sons didn’t have the courage to enter his room.
At the same time, no one in the village or surrounding areas would go near their home.
Wang Shuqiang didn’t know what was causing his illness and still demanded to be taken to the hospital. The family took him to the Second Hospital of Xingtai again. “A doctor told us ‘The president of the hospital just issued an order. You can’t stay here. We can’t give you tests or medicine. You must leave immediately. If you only had liver disease, I’d be forced to let you stay regardless of how severe it is. But you also have AIDS.’ He was shocked when heard that. We asked the doctor whether we could have a CT scan. The doctor said ‘No, not even if you pay for it.’ He didn’t receive any treatment. He walked into the hospital himself but couldn’t even lift his legs when he left,” Wang Shuqiang’s wife told the reporter.
After returning home, Wang Shuqiang was placed in an isolation room. He did not eat, did not take medicine, and did not receive intravenous treatment. He laid in bed and died just over ten days later. After he died, he was placed in a plastic bag and put inside the coffin. He was buried the next day.
To ensure the safety of other family members, many patients were cruelly isolated from family members.
An old lady who lived in a town in the mountains of Xingtai County was diagnosed with AIDS in April 2003. She was forcibly discharged from the hospital and returned home. Her husband and her moved from the big room to a small cottage in the back of the house. The old lady had always taken care of her five grandchildren who had always slept with the old lady. From then on, the children never spent any time with their grandmother again. Although she was the one helping her husband and the family with everything, from then on, her husband not only refused to let her to any chore, but told her not to touch anything in the house, saying “if you want to eat momo, I’ll separate it for you,” and “if you want water, I’ll pour it for you.” Her son told the reporter. “That was torture and a cruel punishment for the old lady. All she knew was that she had an infectious disease.”
“Many AIDS patients faced isolation, discrimination, and indifference, and they suffered and died because of it.”
The reporter found that some of them did know that they had AIDS but even waiting for death has been difficult.
All patients found by the reporter, once they have a confirmed diagnosis of AIDS, were invariably sent home to wait for death.
The pain of AIDS patients
“The dead were wrongfully treated and the living are even more wrongfully treated!”
“Dou E (Note: character from the Chinese play The Injustice to Dou E) had the opportunity to call out the injustice done to her, but we never have the opportunity.”
Wang Weijun, the first person to file the AIDS lawsuits, told the reporter what happened to his family. After Wang Weijun’s wife died of AIDS in May 1999, news of AIDS in his family spread in the village and everyone knew about it. He said “After it happened, people in the village avoided us like the plague. My daughter was two and just learned how to walk. When she slipped on the road, people would just stand there and watch. Not one person helped her up. When she wanted candy, the vendor on the street would simply throw her the candy when she approached, and didn’t even want her money.”
When his wife was buried that year, the family prepared a lot of food as per the village custom, and not one person touched the food. “There was an entire pot of noodles. I wanted to give it to people to feed their pigs but they resolutely refused.”
AIDS is incurable and everyone knows that. Having AIDS is like having a death sentence. “Those that are still alive like us do not live like people but we are not quite dead yet.” Mr. Li is a 32-year-old AIDS patient who lives in a village in Baita Town, Shahe City. His wife lost her life to AIDS last year and his 8-year-old daughter and him were all HIV positive. He said “I don’t want to think about it because it would only bring despair. I’m going to live one day at a time. The child is still young.”
A 50-year-old AIDS patient told me “Children can’t come see me and no friend would come see me. I’m all alone now. Living like this makes me want to die and be done with it!”
Pain and unjust treatment of family members of AIDS patients
“I’m so scared when the children have a fever or catch a cold. When they have itches or a fever, my heart races and my mind goes blank. I think that death could be better than staying alive!”
In a small mountain village in Xingtai County, a grandfather and grandmother of a family died of AIDS. The wife of the second son of the family feared for the children who had lived with their grandparents before they started elementary school. Her crying unnerved the reporter.
She said “The children’s grandmother had a blood transfusion in the hospital 8 years ago. In the last few years, she often had itches. When she had itches, the grandchildren would help her rub the itches. Who knew what could happen?”
Although the children were tested and were all right, people would say “His grandfather was tested twice and everything was fine, right? But the result of third test was positive, who should we believe?”
She said that the children still have a long way to go and this was only the beginning. Will the pressure ever end? It will take at least 20 years! 20 years of life like this?
The eldest son of the old couple who died of AIDS told the reporter “When my mother died, my father fell ill. Only those in the family knew what we had. The parents isolated themselves in the run-down cottage in the yard. We were heartbroken.”
He told the reporter that “Friends and relatives came and scolded my brother and I. My uncle yelled at me ‘If you don’t have money to put them in the hospital, I’ll pay for it!’ We wanted to put them in the hospital, too. The relatives kept criticizing us and called us ungrateful sons. We didn’t know what to do.”
People kept asking me what our parents had. We couldn’t say it’s AIDS because we’d ostracized. How can farmers like us find another place to live?
“People treat the family members of AIDS patients with such mistrust. They believe that if your family member has AIDS, you must have AIDS yourself.” Zhang Jilu told the reporter. He is the father of Tiantian, a child suffering from AIDS.
Wang Weijun is also a father of a child with AIDS. He told the reporter “I’ve sought justice for 5 years. The thing that has bothered me the most is the bullying and indifference. I’ve had so many arguments with others. They’d taunt me and even resort to violence.”
He said “I visited a provincial ministry on December 3, 1999. When they saw me, they slammed the door shut before I had a chance to ask questions. They complained that World AIDS Day just ended and I shouldn’t be running around. That angered me. I said I don’t have AIDS. Although my child has AIDS, I wasn’t afraid of it and they shouldn’t be either. They replied ‘How can you not have AIDS? Your wife had it and your daughter has it. You definitely have it. You claim you don’t only because you haven’t been tested! ‘”
As Zhang Jilu had said, “In response to all the gossip, I was left with no choice but to remain silent because any explanation would fall on deaf ears and no one would believe me. I can only let it be and live my life like a crook even though I’m not a crook. I forget about the moral character and dignity.”
Many AIDS patients in Xingtai and their family members found the reporter’s visit heartwarming. They said that no one has treated them as humans and the reporter was the only person who visited.
Poverty of families with AIDS
“Nannan, what’s your favorite food?”
“What is your dream toy?”
“What is your biggest dream?”
“Going to university and earning a PhD.”
“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
“I want to be a teacher.”
“What kind of teacher would you like to be?”
“I want to be a teacher in our village.”
That was a conversation between the reporter and Nannan, a girl with AIDS in Longhua Town, Baixiang County on July 13, 2005. The favorite food of this 8-year-old girl was not chocolate, jelly, or ham, but plain old rice.
Her grandmother had disabilities in both legs. She told the reporter “There’s nothing we could do. It takes money to do anything in modern society. We have two patients in the family — the child and me. How do we live without money?”
Things were the same for Dandan’s family who lives in a village in Baita Town, Shahe City. Dandan and her father both need treatment and the 61-year-old grandfather had to collect recyclable waste to help pay for expenses. Although Dandan’s father is also HIV positive and has severe symptoms, he works every day. He has to drive a mine cart at the coal mine nearby every morning. “I work 8 to 9 hours a day for a mere RMB 600 each month.”
The coal mine still does not know that he was HIV positive. If they found out, he would suffer the same fate as Zhang Jilu in Zhanggou Village, Cejing Township, and could only rely on the barren land to make a living.
Nearly all 34 AIDS patients and those infected with HIV interviewed by the reporter were regular farmers. Most families are considered poor even among the local farming communities.
Xingtai has always been a poorer part of Hebei Province. These farmers are just regular farmers and some lived in poverty.
“We are in such dire conditions because of the hospital!” All families, regardless of their financial conditions, told the reporter in the interviews that they have but one wish — sue the hospital. They want justice.”
“80% to 90% of the AIDS patients in Xingtai were infected by blood transfusions.”
During the interview, almost all AIDS patients and their families stated that the infected blood transfused by the hospitals was the cause of their misery today.
“80% to 90% of the AIDS patients in Xingtai were infected by blood transfusions.”
Is that true? The reporter has obtained two official documents which should be closely examined.
Information from the two official documents is provided below:
First document: Blood transfusion is currently the main cause of AIDS transmission in China
In early 2004, the Ministry of Health announced that according to epidemiological studies, 840,000 people in China have been infected with HIV. There are approximately 80,000 AIDS patients, which ranked 14th in the world and 2nd in Asia. People with HIV infection were found in 31 provinces, autonomous regions, and municipalities.
The statistics of the Ministry of Health also showed that blood transfusion is currently the main cause of AIDS transmission in China. HIV is mainly transmitted through sexual intercourse, blood, and mother-to-child transmission. The spread of AIDS in China is now mostly the result of blood transfusion, which accounted for 72.6%; sexual intercourse accounted for 8.4%; mother-to-child transmission accounted for 0.3%; and transmission via unknown channels accounted for 18.7%.
Second document: 80% of the AIDS patients in Hebei were infected as a result of blood transfusion
According to the statement of an official of the Department of Health of Hebei Province in a report in Yanzhao Metropolis Daily dated December 2, 2004, the first case of HIV infection in Hebei Province was discovered in 1989. After the discovery of a small-scale AIDS epidemic among paid blood donors in 1995, the AIDS epidemic in Hebei Province has gone through the transmission phase, localized epidemic phase, and rapid growth phase. The current numbers of reported cases of HIV and AIDS patients in Hebei Province ranked higher than average in China, and the epidemic is considered to be more severe in Hebei. According to reports, the AIDS patients and infections occurred within a short period mainly after the passage of legislation for allowing paid blood donations in 1995. They accounted for nearly 80% of all those infected. Overall, the AIDS epidemic in Hebei Province remains at a low level. However, the peak of the AIDS epidemic in areas with high numbers of HIV infections will soon arrive after a longer incubation period. For people infected with HIV in Hebei Province around 1995, the peak for the onset of the disease and death has arrived. A series of deaths has occurred in certain areas.
What caused the high number of cases of AIDS in Xingtai? Regardless of the explanation provided by Xingtai authorities, many AIDS patients and their family members believed “the blood transfusion killed them.” They pointed the finger at the hospitals.
Hospitals in Xingtai that have already defended themselves in court include Kangtai Hospital, Xiandewang Coal Miners’ Hospital, Xingtai, Xingtai People’s Hospital, and the Second Hospital of Xingtai.
Wang Weijun somehow won the AIDS lawsuit after five years
Wang Weijun is a 38-year-old farmer whose family lives in Yicheng Town, Wu’an (administered by Handan), only 3 or 4 kilometers from Kangtai Hospital in Shahe City. Wang’s wife Jin Shuangying was hospitalized in Kangtai Hospital on July 30, 1997 when she was giving birth to her daughter Jiajia. On August 1, she successfully gave birth to Jiajia, who weighed 4 kilograms.
After giving birth, the President of the Hospital, Wang Shunying, kept visiting Wang to ask him give his wife a blood transfusion. She told me that ‘You should give her a transfusion for her to recover faster.’ She kept trying to convince me. My parents-in-law were present on several such occasions. My wife was only 28 and was in good health but I thought that the doctor was trying to help us and I couldn’t let the parents think I was uncaring. So, we had the blood transfusion.”
Wang Weijun paid for the blood on the morning of August 4. The hospital transfused 400ml of blood for Jin Shuangying at noon. She was soon discharged from the hospital. They spent RMB 1,200 when she was hospitalized and the payment for the blood transfusion accounted for a third of the cost.
Jin Shuangying began to suffer from mouth ulcers and constant fevers starting from Chinese New Year of the following year. At first, Wang took his wife to nearby clinics and small hospitals. The conclusions were “infection”, “signs of inflammation”, “lack of vitamins”, etc. She took a lot of medication but things didn’t improve.
She was later taken to the local and county hospitals and had countless blood tests which yielded no results.
In winter, the fever could not be controlled and no medicine was effective.
By the third year in the period around Chinese New Year in 1999, Jin Shuangying was hospitalized in Handan Central Hospital, the best hospital in the city. She had countless blood tests which yielded no results. After about a month, the hospital consulted an expert from Beijing. One week later, the two other patients in Jin Shuangying’s ward were suddenly transferred to other wards.
The doctor soon told Wang “Your wife has a rare infectious disease. The disease prevention authority will contact you.” She was soon discharged from the hospital.
After returning home, he watched helplessly as his wife’s illness worsened, but no one ever came. Wang went to the hospital and the staff directed him to the disease prevention station. Wang went to the disease prevention station.
The disease prevention station was soon filled with people. By then, Jin Shuangying could no longer walk. The staff handed Wang a note for him to pick up medicine for AIDS at Beijing Ditan Hospital.
That was how Wang learned that his wife had AIDS. He called the hospital in Beijing and the staff told him that the patient must go there in person to pick up the medicine. Wang called the disease prevention station for help. Three doctors came a few days later and said “She’s not going to make it.” Jin Shuangying died on May 16 that year.
After burying his wife, Wang Weijun followed the instructions of the disease prevention authority and took the two children for tests. Wang and his son were fine but his daughter was diagnosed with HIV.
Wang Weijun was shocked again. He couldn’t, for the life of him, understand how it could have happened. He went around like a crazy person and kept asking people. He wanted to know why and how she was infected.”
Wang Weijun began his petitioning in June that year. He swore that “I shall never cut my hair until I have justice for my wife and daughter.”
Wang Weijun kept his long hair and continued his long petitioning process from the county to the city and from the provincial government to Beijing. “I don’t know how many visits I made.”
His resolve yielded preliminary results: In late November 1999, the Bureau of Health of Shahe City released an investigation report. It stated that “Illegal blood collection was indeed performed at Kangtai Hospital but there was nothing wrong with the blood provided to the party concerned for transfusion.” After receiving the report, Wang Weijun visited the Ministry of Health. An official of the Department of Medical Affairs stated that the investigation report did not provide evidence that the blood was from a healthy donor.
At the same time, media outlets such as Southern Weekly published reports on Wang Weijun’s story.
In response to Wang Weijun’s petitions, the Department of Disease Prevention of the Ministry of Health sent three official letters to Hebei Province and demanded a rigorous investigation, “but nothing came of them.”
After Chinese New Year in 2000, Wang Weijun visited the Ministry of Health again. An official told Wang Weijun “If you really want justice, you must use the justice system. If the Ministry of Health made a mistake, you can sue us as well.”
That really encouraged Wang Weijun. With the help of media reporters and the Center for Women’s Law Studies and Legal Services of Peking University, Wang Weijun sued Kangtai Hospital in court on April 16 with a statement of claim and requested RMB 15,387,700 in compensation.
Wang Weijun received the civil judgment on October 15, 2001. The judgment supported certain parts of Wang’s claims. After several rounds of appeals and retrials, Wang Weijun finally received the final judgment from the High People’s Court of Hebei Province on April 30, 2004. The judgment maintained the first-instance judgment rendered by Xingtai Intermediate People’s Court.
Xingtai Intermediate People’s Court (2003) Xing-Min-1-Chu No. 8 Judgment read “The rights to life and health of citizens are protected by law and no individual or entity may violate the legal rights and interests of the citizens. Jin Shuangying cannot be faulted for receiving treatment at the defendant’s institution. The defendant violated blood donation and transfusion regulations when it provided the blood transfusion for Jin Shuangying who was subsequently infected with HIV. The defendant has failed to prove that the blood transfusion was from a healthy donor, and has failed to provide sufficient evidence that Jin Shuangying was infected with HIV through other means. I.e., it has failed to provide evidence for the absence of a causal relationship between its medical practice and Jin Shuangying’s HIV infection or evidence proving that it was not at fault or negligent. In addition, the defendant’s error in illegal blood collection is evident. According to related judicial interpretations, the defendant is liable for paying compensation for reasonable treatment expenses and related expenses.”
According to the judgment, Kangtai Hospital was required to pay Wang Weijun over RMB 362 thousand.
That day, Wang Weijun visited his wife’s grave and buried in front of the grave the hair and beard he had cut off.
The farmer from Hebei won the lawsuit after five years. Although he was not satisfied with the amount of the compensation, he has done all he could for his dead wife who died of an HIV infection due to blood transfusion and his 8-year-old daughter.
However, the execution of the compensation posed more difficulties for Wang Weijun: As of today, after numerous court orders, Wang has only received a little more than RMB 110 thousand.
When the reporter recently met Wang Weijun, he was still in court and trying hard to collect his compensation payment.
As he had won the lawsuit after so much hardship, Wang Weijun became the first to win the AIDS lawsuit in Hebei Province and was selected by the Hebei Daily as one of the top ten figures who “touched Hebei” in 2004.
Wang Weijun told the reporter that Gao Chenghai (alias), another villager who lived in the same town, also lost his wife to AIDS. Gao was also HIV positive. Gao has received some payment from Kangtai Hospital but did not know the exact amount. Gao Chenghai rejected the statement when the reporter asked about it. He said “Life goes on and I must live my life.”
The same tragedy happened to Zhang Jilu, a farmer from Zhanggou Village, Cejing Township, Shahe City. He has also demanded an explanation from Kangtai Hospital many times. He told reporters that the President of the Hospital told him ‘You’re just a nobody from Zhanggou. If you want to sue me, go ahead and try.
The reporter visited Kangtai Hospital to verify these statements.
A large courtyard stood about 100 meters south of a road in Xiandewang Town, Shahe City. The reporter entered through a side entrance and saw a three-story building with white tiles in the courtyard. “Kangtai Hospital” in large fonts was placed on the top of the building. Two bronze plaques on either side of the door showed “Shahe City Xiandewang Community Service Center” and proclaimed the institution as a medical education hospital of a certain school and a designated hospital of a certain region. Upon entering the building, the reporter found that there were more than 40 rooms on three floors and the hospital had obstetrics and gynecology, internal medicine, and otorhinolaryngology departments. There were also many wards. Villagers from nearby villages were receiving IV transfusions and some were lying in beds.
The President’s office was on the third floor. The reporter did not find the President but found an advertisement for the hospital in the corridor. A passage regarding the President of the Hospital read as follows: “CCP Member Wang Shunying has received several commendations for his work from Shahe City since 2000. She was appointed as the President of the Hospital in 1995 and had served as the Director of Obstetrics and Gynecology Department of Xiandewang Coal Miners’ Hospital.”
The reporter saw a very large photograph in the bulletin board on the west of the staircase. It reads “China Hospital Director Forum, Great Hall of the People, June 2004.”
The other column on the bulletin board reads “The paper ‘Diagnosis and Emergency Medical Treatment for Postpartum Hemorrhage’ written by Kangtai Hospital was discussed in the Beijing National High-Level Emergency Medicine Development Forum, September 2004”.
Wang Weijun, the farmer that fought Kangtai Hospital in court for five whole years, has a deeper understanding of the hospital. He told the reporter that Kangtai Hospital was a private hospital founded in 1995 with personal investments made by Wang Shunying and others.
He said that many farmers did not have the courage to sue Kangtai Hospital and he only had results after five years of hard work because Kangtai Hospital is so well-connected.
A report published by Southern Weekly on Wang Weijun’s story on December 3, 1999 stated “The reporter was told in almost every interview that the private hospital has very strong connections. The President’s younger sister is the Deputy Mayor of Shahe City and his brother’s wife is the Mayor of Xingtai.
Xingtai People’s Hospital lost the AIDS lawsuit
News of Wang Weijun’s victory in the AIDS lawsuit soon spread to most AIDS patients and family members in the area. Many people took his lead and sought out lawyers to go to court. “We want justice!”
The reporter read articles in the local media that Xingtai People’s Hospital, the largest general hospital and the only AAA hospital and national “Baby Friendly Hospital” in Xingtai, was also involved in the AIDS lawsuit and sustained losses in the lawsuit.
The attorney Chen Yingke helped family members of AIDS patients in the first case against the hospital and provided the reporter with extensive court documents and reports by the local media. An article published in Heibei Legal News in August 2004 was titled “Wei County Farmer Sues Hospital: Family of Diseased AIDS Patient Received RMB 36 Thousand in Compensation” and contained the following:
A woman from a rural village in Wei County, Xingtai sued Xingtai People’s Hospital and the Second Hospital of Xingtai in court and claimed that her husband (the patient Wang Shuqiang described in the report) was infected with HIV during his treatment in the hospital. Xingtai Qiaodong People’s Court rendered a first-instance judgment and ordered the defendant Xingtai People’s Hospital to pay the plaintiff compensation for economic losses totaling RMB 35,976.
The report also stated that the farmer, surnamed Wang, received treatment for hepatitis in Xingtai People’s Hospital on July 13, 2003, and received a blood transfusion on July 17. The hospital conducted various tests on Wang before the blood transfusion and he was tested HIV negative. After 3 blood transfusions in Xingtai People’s Hospital, Wang was transferred to the Second Hospital of Xingtai on July 22 and he had a blood test on July 25. The results on July 28 showed that he was HIV positive and was diagnosed as an AIDS patient. Wang died in his home on October 17 of the same year. Want’s wife sued the two hospitals in Xingtai Qiaodong People’s Court.
Following the review, the court found that the defendant Xingtai People’s Hospital could not prove that Wang did not have an HIV infection in the blood transfusion process during his stay in the hospital. The court thus ordered Xingtai People’s Hospital to pay the plaintiff compensation for economic losses totaling RMB 35,976.
The attorney of the case, Chen Yingke, told the reporter that Xingtai People’s Hospital rejected the judgment and filed an appeal. The hospital specifically asked for “the inclusion of the blood supplier, Xingtai Central Blood Station, in the lawsuit”. The reason was that according to the Regulations on Administration of Blood Products and the Provisions on Clinical Use of Blood in Medical Institutions, blood stations are entities designated by law to produce and supply blood products.
The court of second instance has not yet rendered a verdict.
Similar cases have appeared. During the reporter’s investigations of the AIDS epidemic in Xingtai, a villager named Liang Guangming (alias) from a mountain village in Xingtai County collected evidence and sued Xingtai People’s Hospital in court after both his parents died of AIDS. The reason was that the hospital had provided his mother with a blood transfusion in 1996. Xingtai Qiaodong People’s Court officially reviewed the case on October 10 this year but has not yet rendered a verdict.
Liang Guangming provided the reporter with his mother’s medical records from Xingtai People’s Hospital. The hospital’s “Operation Records” after the patient underwent total hysterectomy on May 27, 1996 showed: “The operation was a success and the hemorrhage was limited. The patient returned to the ward after the operation. Blood pressure measured after returning to the ward was 16/10kPa. The urinary catheter was clear and the urine color was clear. The injection of fluids was successful. The excised specimen was delivered for pathology tests.”
The hospital provided the patient with a blood transfusion on the same day. The reporter read the hospital’s “Fluid Transfusion Records” for the same date and found “400ml blood transfusion; blood type: O; blood storage number: 413; donor: Hu San”.
Liang Guangming told the reporter that his mother had always been in good spirits and had rarely been sick before she was hospitalized for treatment. “But after she was discharged, she always felt discomfort and had a low fever. She had itches all over and would often scratch the skin all over her body.” His mother was diagnosed with an advanced HIV infection in a reputable local hospital in 2003.
Liang’s mother passed away in her home on July 5 of the same year. Soon, Liang’s father also tested positive for HIV and was treated in a reputable hospital in China. The treatment did not work and he died at home on July 5, 2004.
The death of both parents within one year devastated the families of Liang Guangming and his brother. His wife told the reporter “The hospital wanted to murder someone and murdered my mother. Why did they have to kill my father? Now, whenever anyone in the family has a cold or fever, the whole family be panics. What kind of life is this?”
In the room once occupied by Liang Guangming’s parents, the table and chairs were covered in dust and the air was stale. The reporter noted that the two calendars on the wall showed the dates of their parents’ deaths. “We never clean it because we felt that our parents died wrongful deaths. So, we kept things the way they were.”
“To be honest, the whole village knows how my parents died but nobody said anything about it. However, we do have a lot fewer friends now and we hardly see the few friends that we still have.”
Liang Guangming said “Our parents were honest and simple people. There was no way they could have been infected with HIV. It was definitely an infection caused by blood transfusion. Anyone could tell that the name of the donor, Hu San, was a false name. Liang Guangming and his brother never found out who Hu San was. Did he sell his blood to other people?
Xiandewang Coal Mine, self-proclaimed “The Magnificent Pearl of Yanzhao”, is located in Xiandewang Town, Shahe City. The coal mine produces 1.3 million tons of coal each year and has built the Xiandewang Coal Miners’ Hospital, a hospital bigger than Kangtai Hospital. Located only a few hundred meters from Kangtai Hospital, both Xiandewang Coal Miners’ Hospital and Kangtai Hospital were the two major hospitals in the hotbed for the AIDS epidemic identified by the reporter in investigations.
Xiandewang Coal Miners’ Hospital was also sued in court over disputes involving AIDS and sustained losses in the AIDS lawsuits.
The attorney Zhen Yifeng helped family members of AIDS patients in the first case against the hospital and provided the reporter with extensive court documents and reports by the local media. The reporter visited the family twice using the address provided by the attorney Zhen Yifeng but failed to find the family on both occasions. A villager told the reporter that “The woman is dead and the man is still sick.”
The reporter learned the following based on information provided by the attorney and interviews with villagers:
Jia Xuefu (alias) was a 49-year-old farmer from Jiagou Village, Cejing County, Shahe City. He married his wife Wang Yuying (alias) in 1979 and started a happy family life.
However, misfortune suddenly struck this honest and happy family in 1995.
In December 1995, Wang Yuying had a hysterectomy in Xiandewang Coal Miners’ Hospital and was received a blood transfusion of 400ml. She spent more than a month in the hospital.
After she was discharged, Wang Yuying felt that her body never fully recovered. She always felt discomfort and there was a constant fever. She had been industrious and efficient but she had become weary and her poor health showed on her face.
When she visited the hospital again, the hospital told her that it was hepatitis with jaundice. She would recover from hepatitis and jaundice but still felt tired as her health deteriorated.
Wang Yuying had another test in the MCC20 Hospital in Shahe City in 2002 and she was tested positive for hepatitis C antibodies.
The doctor said that hepatitis C is mainly transmitted by blood transfusion and asked if she has had one. The doctor also implicitly told Jia Xuefu that if his wife’s hepatitis C persists and if she has a constant low fever, she may have contracted ADIS like the other patient. The “other patient” was someone who had an HIV infection due to blood transfusion in Xiandewang Coal Miners’ Hospital.
However, the couple did not believe the doctor’s implicit suggestion.
Jia Xuefu continued to get treatment for his wife. She was hospitalized three times in Xingtai People’s Hospital. He spent all the family savings, and borrowed more than RMB 100,000 from friends and relatives.
Wang Yuying’s conditions never improved.
Wang Yuying’s younger brother works as a teacher in Shahe City. In October 2003, he told Jia Xuefu “My sister had a blood transfusion. You should take her to the disease prevention station to have her blood tested. Get her all the tests.”
The test results showed that his wife Wang Yuying was HIV positive.
On October 13, the diagnosis was confirmed by the Hebei Provincial AIDS Prevent Center. Wang Yuying was diagnosed with AIDS and her husband was HIV positive. The three children were fine.
On September 12, 2004, Yanzhao Metropolis Daily published a report titled “Legal Aid: Supporting AIDS Patients” stated:
Thus, with the help of attorneys, they sued Xiandewang Coal Miners’ Hospital in court. Although they did not leave any direct evidence of their hospitalization in this hospital, their attorney conducted investigations for them and obtained a comprehensive chain of evidence.
Zhongxing Road Court of Xingtai Qiaoxi People’s Court reviewed the case twice on May 17 and May 25, 2004.
The defendant Xiandewang Coal Miners’ Hospital could hardly provide any evidence to prove that it did not commit any error in the medical services it provided. Finally, with the support of the court, the parties reached a mediated settlement agreement.
On July 5, 2004, Xingtai Qiaoxi People’s Court issued a “Civil Mediation Document” requesting the “Defendant to pay the plaintiff three hundred thousand Renminbi (RMB 300,000). The case litigation expenses of RMB 10,630 and other litigation expenses totaling RMB 1,858 shall be borne by the Defendant.”
RMB 300,000 was the justice Jia Xuefu had won. However, the sizable payment in return of a life did nothing to ease his sorrow. He told his attorney “Our family will be forever grateful to you, but I wouldn’t want to live like this for all the money in the world.”
Jia Xuefu said that many people in the area went to Xiandewang Coal Miners’ Hospital for treatment when they get sick. Therefore, his family wasn’t the only one infected with HIV due to the blood transfusion. He recounted similar cases of people in other villages who had similar diseases to the reporter. They all had blood transfusions in Xiandewang Coal Miners’ Hospital and some were already dead.
After his court case, someone from Yicheng sought him out and said that his sister also had a blood transfusion in a hospital and had a similar disease. Jia Xuefu was asked how he had handled the court case.
Jia Xuefu lost his wife to AIDS but the pain did not end there. He is still struggling to support his own life after being given a death sentence. Recently, Xingtai Mining (Group) Co., Ltd., the entity that manages Xiandewang Coal Miners’ Hospital, claimed in a document that they were “scammed” by Jia Xuefu.
The official document read: “Liu Xianhong (reporter’s note: another AIDS patient whose story is described in detail below) has filed a lawsuit connecting the co-called causes of illness to Xiandewang Coal Miners’ Hospital, but we do not rule out such claim as an attempt to scam and extort payment from state-owned business. It is related to the case involving the AIDS patient Jia Xuefu who scammed Xingtai Mining Group General Hospital in July 2004. Without any evidence of wrongdoing, the company bowed to pressure and accepted the mediation organized by Xingtai Qiaoxi People’s Court to peacefully end the fiasco and paid RMB 380,000. The incident has been encouraged some very negative behavior.”
The reporter has found a CCTV report in August last year, which stated that Shahe City, Xingtai was verified by the Ministry of Health as one of the first 51 comprehensive AIDS prevention demonstration areas in early 2003. In the reports filed by the Bureau of Health of Xingtai, the reporter learned that the first case of HIV infection in Hebei Province was discovered in 1989. By November 2003, 63 cases of HIV infection had been discovered in Xingtai and the epidemic has spread to 8 counties and districts. In just 2003, 20 case of HIV infection were reported and the epidemic was evidently on the rise. According to the reports of HIV infection found by the reporter, the people who were infected had, without exception, a blood transfusion in a hospital due to illness. The reports also showed, without exception, that the sources of blood used by the hospital for the blood transfusion were unknown.
So, is there a relationship between AIDS and blood in Xingtai? Is there a blood management problem in Xingtai?
Medical institutions’ obsession with privately collected blood
“The source of blood in Kangtai Hospital is their private blood transfusion team.”
That statement was taken directly from the report produced by Wu’an City (administered by Handan) in 1999 regarding the HIV infection of Wang Weijun’s wife and daughter. It was also a report on the status of blood management in Kangtai Hospital in 1999, which now lies in the center of the problems.
A report in Southern Weekly on this matter in 1999 contained the following:
The Chief of Wu’an City Disease Prevention Station told the reporter “According to investigations, both the deceased were honest and hard-working women in farming villages with no travel history or records of sexual delinquency. There was no other way for them to contract AIDS. Private collection of blood by hospitals has been a hidden threat for the transmission of AIDS and has long been banned.”
He expressed concern and said “We hope that these two cases would be the end of it but we have prepared for the worst. The two cases may be just the tip of the iceberg. People don’t realize what is going on after they are infected. When they die, no one knows why. Even if they do, they don’t have the money or power to go to court.”
On October 18, before the appearance of “Liu Bao” (alias), the President of the Hospital Wang Shunying told investigators “I really don’t remember where the blood came from. It could be from Xingtai Central Blood Station or the blood transfusion teams in Shahe.”
A “blood transfusion team” sells blood for a living. It is a colloquial term used by locals to describe groups that go around peddling blood. The leader of a blood transfusion team is known as the blood seller. On November 12, Wang Shunying told the reporter that when she served as a doctor in the Xiandewang Coal Miners’ Hospital, the laboratory was responsible for managing the blood transfusion teams. On the same day, the reporter interviewed people near Kangtai Hospital and someone claimed to have seen a blood seller on the previous day. However, the sale of blood has become less visible. It has not completely disappeared. It has merely transformed from large-scale operations in public to hidden operations.
According to information obtained by the reporter, 400ml of blood costs RMB 460. The blood seller gets RMB 200, the hospital gets just over RMB 100, and the blood seller only gets a little over RMB 100.
Almost all the locals knew about it. From 1993 to 1997, the blood transfusion teams operated out of Taihang Hotel near Kangtai Hospital. The members came from Henan, Shanxi, and Northeast China. They often move from place to place to sell blood. The locals don’t know where they had gone but no one had ever heard of a local who sold blood. According to information provided by the owner of Taihang Hotel, the blood transfusion teams numbered 20 to 30 people at its peak. They had nearly taken over the entire Taihang Hotel. The blood transfusion teams would often fight each other over the right to sell blood.
A report published by Yanzhao Metropolis Daily on the story of AIDS patient Jia Xuefu on September 12, 2004 described the problem of privately collected blood in Xiandewang as follows:
A staff member of the Bureau of Health of Xingtai told the reporter that blood management had been chaotic around 1995 due to the rise of privately collected blood in local areas. Certain hospitals sought out “blood sellers” to secure sources of blood for profits. The blood from the blood donors who made a living by selling blood posed immense threat to recipients because hospitals did not conduct comprehensive clinical tests and the quality varies significantly.
Jia Xuefu recalled that he had waited more than ten days in the hospital for his wife’s operation. He walked around during that time and often saw a fat man bringing people into the hospital to sell blood, but he didn’t sell his own blood. Jia Xuefu observed the process a few times and listened to people’s discussions. He learned that the blood donors received less than half of the payment for blood.
He said that the people who sold blood may have contracted the disease and infected his wife. He said that the blood transfusion procedures were so simple back then. The doctor simply told him “We have the blood. Prepare the money.” In a short while, the blood was flowing into his wife’s veins. There were no special blood bags. They only used glucose bottles.
The staff member of the Bureau of Health of Xingtai told the reporter that if one of the paid blood donors had AIDS, the results could be catastrophic because he would have donated blood more than just once. That means it would have infected more than just one patient.
The incubation period of AIDS is generally several years to more than ten years. The mistakes made back then would result in a peak in the onset of AIDS in recent years. According to the staff member, dozens of HIV infections were found in just Shahe City in the past few years, which accounted for the majority of infections in Xingtai. Most of the infected people were concentrated in areas around Xiandewang.
Private blood collection was a common practice in hospitals of all counties in Xingtai City in the mid-1990s.
In 1998, Li Qianji, a staff member of the Xingtai Central Blood Station, conducted a personal investigation of the private blood collection by most counties in Xingtai. Li Qianji wrote an article titled “Private Blood Collection: Life-Threatening Secrets” and published it in the Hebei Daily on May 20, 1998. The article stated that when blood transfusion is needed for a surgery, the hospital usually lets the patient find the blood. Patients’ family members who are unfamiliar with the process must rely on the guidance of the more informed and seek help from “blood sellers” to buy blood. The hospitals are only responsible for testing the blood type and refuse to do more.”
Li Qianji’s report also stated:
According to national regulations, blood used for medical purposes in transfusion must undergo strict tests to test whether it is Rh positive or negative, and test for blood density, transaminase, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, AIDS, syphilis, etc. The tests must be performed before the blood collection and performed again after the blood collection. Due to objective conditions, the private hospital could only perform one test — the blood type test — for blood donors before blood collection. Such irresponsible conduct rendered government regulations ineffective.
In conversations with blood donors in different counties and cities, the author learned that the blood donors who were disqualified in screening conducted by municipal blood supply institutions mostly took part in blood donations in hospitals in the county. They generally have diseases that disqualified them as blood donors and most of them had hepatitis. There was a county hospital that offers some of the best medical services among its peers. It earns millions in annual operating income but statements of related authorities showed that the hospital only consumed the same amount of blood as a Township Health Department, which was 10% to 20% of the blood consumption of hospitals of the same level. Does the hospital not need blood for injured patients in surgery? Does the hospital rarely use blood? The author interviewed many people before understanding the hospital’s shocking practice. When a patient needs a surgery, the hospital usually lets the patient find the blood. Patients’ family members who are unfamiliar with the process must rely on the guidance of the more informed and seek help from nearby “blood sellers” to buy blood (Note: a blood seller is the middleman who profits from selling other people’s blood). The hospitals are only responsible for testing the blood type and refuse to do more. As for how much blood needs to be bought and how much money the patient should pay the blood seller, the patient must negotiate with the blood seller in private based on requirements specified by the doctor. What is worse is that the management of certain hospitals chose to ignore their employees’ involvement in the private collection and supply of blood. They even claimed that it was done for the benefit for hospital employees.
The Ministry of Health promulgated the Regulations on Blood Collection and Supply Institution and Blood Administration in 1993 and Hebei Provincial Government issued Order 114 Hebei Province Regulations on Blood Collection and Supply Institution and Blood Administration in 1994 to control the severe problems caused by lawlessness in blood management and private collection of blood. It expressly states that: Except for blood supply institutions, no hospital is permitted to engage in private blood collection and all blood used for medical purposes must undergo rigorous tests.
However, private blood collection remained an issue in 1999, six years after the order was issued to ban the practice.
In June 1999, CCP Xingtai Commission for Discipline Inspection disclosed the “ten major crimes” in Xingtai. The illegal blood collection by the Xingtai Central Blood Station was ranked fifth on the list.
According to public records, since the implementation of the “Law on Blood Donation” in August 1998, Xingtai Blood Donation Office could not complete the planned blood donation drive. With the approval from the Deputy Director of the Bureau of Health of Xingtai Jia Dongyang, the Deputy Director of the Blood Donation Office Li Rongpu arranged staff member Yang Wei of the Xingtai Central Blood Station, and the Chief of the Xingtai Central Blood Station Jia Yangli arranged for the Deputy Chief Zhu Haitian and Blood Source Section Chief Zhou Haiyan to contact farmers through “contact persons”. 1,668 farmers were asked to donate blood at the Xingtai Central Blood Station and 239 of them donated blood before the minimum interval period between donations was up. During the period, certain individuals reported the problem of blood donations before the minimum interval period between donations was up. However, Jia not only failed to take actions to stop such noncompliance, but also ordered other persons to conceal the evidence and information before investigations could be conducted.
The Xingtai Commission for Discipline Inspection conducted an investigation and decided to issue an internal disciplinary warning to Jia Dongyang. It also recommended a disciplinary demerit for Jia Yangli by the Bureau of Health of Xingtai. The criticisms for Li Rongpu, Zhu Haitian, and Zhou Haiyan were circulated in the health system.
From 1995 to March 1999, Julu County Hospital collected and transfused blood in 79 cases without applying for the “Blood Collection and Transfusion Permit”. The medical records contained no blood test forms or blood distribution forms. It had collected blood before the minimum interval period between donations was up in 17 cases and collected blood in excess of the permitted amount in 1 case. For such violations, President Fu Dianxun and Vice President Zhang Chengru of Julu County Hospital bear main leadership responsibilities, and the Deputy Section Chief of the Medical Affairs Section Ma Enqian and the person in charge of the blood bank Li Boling bear direct responsibilities.
The Xingtai Commission for Discipline Inspection advised the Commission for Discipline Inspection and Supervision Bureau of Julu County to issue an internal disciplinary warning to Fu Dianxun, a severe internal disciplinary warning to Zhang Chengru, a disciplinary demerit for Ma Enqian, and a major administrative demerit for Li Boling.
In December 1997, Wang Jingli, the Director of the Bureau of Health, Baixiang County, drafted an agreement without authorization to lease Guchengdian Hospital to two farmers who knew nothing about medical affairs. He also obtained the approval from supervisors to lease Guchengdian Hospital to the two farmers and several employees visited the hospital during the lease period. A new management team of the County Bureau of Health rescinded the lease agreement on May 1998 and appointed Wang Ruifang, and doctor of the hospital, and the President of the Hospital. In the 5-month period of lease to the two farmers and after Wang Ruifang took over as the President, the hospital collected and transfused blood in 6 emergency cases. The collected blood only underwent cross-matching and no physical examination or tests were conducted on the donor. There were no records of blood usage and no reports were filed to the competent authority afterwards.
The Xingtai Commission for Discipline Inspection advised the Commission for Discipline Inspection of Baixiang County to issue an internal disciplinary warning to Wang Jingli and Wang Ruifang.
Why are hospitals obsessed with privately collected blood?
Why do farmers sell their blood with such zeal? The answer is simple. “Farmers like us have no way of making money. The only thing we could do is to sell blood.”
Xialvzhai of Julu County is a well-known “blood donor village”. The village has a population of more than 3,800 and hundreds of people rely on blood donations to make a living.
On July 10, 2005, the reporter of China Economic Times met a villager called Liu Zhenkao, who had once sold blood 13 times within 15 days. He told the reporter that “They give us RMB 100 or more for selling 400ml of blood. That is a large sum for farmers like us.”
Why are hospitals obsessed with privately collected blood?
Yanzhao Metropolis Daily had this to say regarding the conditions at the time:
Why are hospitals willing to bear the risks of investigations and penalties for using privately collected blood? They claimed that they are “helping patients save money and time”. In fact, their personal interests are the most important. According to a blood donor who has donated blood for many years here, for every 400ml of blood they donated, the “blood seller”, doctor who collected the blood, and the attending physician each get paid RMB 70. Certain medical practitioners and hospitals lost their basic professional ethics for money. They were not the only ones who benefited. The reporter posed as a family member of a patient when conducting interviews in Julu County Hospital. The reporter claimed an urgent need for blood and asked around in a small shop at the entrance. A young man surnamed Xu called a “blood seller” right away and collected RMB 10 as “blood transfusion communication fee” from the reporter.
How much profit can one bag of blood bring to a hospital?
According to information provided by the staff of the Xingtai Central Blood Station, patients pay RMB 460 for a 400ml bag of blood from the blood station. The hospital can only add a test fee of approximately RMB 30 on top of the cost. If the blood was privately collected, the hospital is only required to pay approximately RMB 180 to the donor. The hospital may determine how to divide the remaining fees. Some hospitals offer even less payment to donors. Therefore, the hospital earns approximately RMB 300 for every bag of blood.
“The money drove people insane!”
Just how messy is the private blood collection in Xingtai or Hebei?
In a speech on April 8, 1995, Yang Qian, Vice Governor of Hebei Province, stated “Certain areas, certain entities, and certain individuals have transformed blood donation institutions into a third industry for profit. We now have a rush to build blood and plasma collection stations with hospitals, disease prevention stations, health departments, township governments, and even individuals. We have 22 blood donation stations in Hebei Province, of which 3 were never approved and 5 have extensive issues. We have 14 plasma collection stations but only 1 was approved. We have 10 blood collection stations that have not been approved and only 1 of the 132 hospital blood banks that collect and supply blood was approved.”
The lawlessness in blood management as described above is an indisputable fact. What is the causal relationship between this and AIDS in Xingtai?
We know that the incubation period of AIDS can be as long as 8 to 10 years. If the blood mismanagement did in fact occur, it is only natural that the number of AIDS patients would gradually rise.
In a speech in the AIDS prevention and project kickoff meeting for key counties and cities in July 2004, a manager of the Bureau of Health of Xingtai expressly stated that the AIDS cases in the city were “more concentrated in terms of the time of infection and many people were infected around 1995… The fact that blood collection and transfusion in certain periods before and after 1995 had caused the spread of AIDS is indisputable. Once the fire is out of control, it could burn down the entire forest.
In fact, the troubles brewing in Xingtai have spread beyond the areas with rampant private blood collection. There is one other old story that cannot be forgotten — the Shanxi blood problem.
“If a relative of ours is hospitalized and needs a blood transfusion, people of the blood station would never use Shanxi blood.” A staff member of the blood bank of Xingtai Central Blood Station told the reporter.
The staff of Xingtai Central Blood Station referred to the blood purchased by the station from Southern Shanxi in the period from September 1995 to January 1997 as “Shanxi blood”.
Staff members of several blood stations told the reporter that if a relative is hospitalized and really needs a blood transfusion, they generally get blood from the blood bank that has undergone all procedures. They would only give their own relatives such blood. “We can’t be too careful. We don’t know about the quality of other people’s blood but we do know the quality of our own blood.”
According to a report filed by the Xingtai Commission for Discipline Inspection in June 1999, starting from September 1995, Xingtai Central Blood Station had purchased blood from Shanxi without the approval of superior authorities. It continued to make such purchases even after the competent authorities of Hebei Province and Xingtai expressly banned such purchases. It generated RMB 2,324,600 in profits and forged accounts to create RMB 31,453 in off-balance sheet assets.
This theory is consistent with the information provided by Zhang Yindong, the Deputy Chief of Operations of the Blood Station at the time, to the reporter from CCTV. Zhang provided a written explanation regarding the status of “Shanxi blood” during the interview. The original text was as follows:
From September 20, 1995 to January 10, 1997, blood was purchased from Hongdong, Yuncheng, and Yongji Counties in Shanxi Province. It was delivered by the Deputy Chief of Yuncheng Blood Station and Deputy Chief Li of Hongdong Blood Station to Xingtai Blood Station. The method of transportation was collection by each station, delivery by car to the train station, and transportation by train to Xingtai Train Station (blood was contained in iron boxes). The blood was transported by Xingtai Blood Station’s vehicle to the Blood Station some time after 10 o’clock in the evening. The Shanxi trademark on the blood bags were replaced with Xingtai trademark for sales in the same evening. Xingtai paid RMB 200 for every bag (400ml) and sold each bag at RMB 460. The distance traveled and poor protection measures caused severe hemolysis issues. For certain blood, only the plasma could be separated and sold to patients and the quality of the plasma is also poor. The total quantity was 16,750 bags of blood.
The Regulations on Blood Collection and Supply Institution and Blood Administration promulgated by the Ministry of Health in 1993 expressly state: Blood collection from different regions is prohibited to ensure the safety of blood transfusion in medical practices. Ensure the three required unified procedures for processing blood: Unified source of blood, unified blood collection, and unified blood supply. Hebei Province had implemented rigorous regulations at the time: If two adjacent cities need to provide mutual support for the supply of blood, they must report to the Department of Health of Hebei Province and obtain approval. The regulations also included strict conditions and only allow transfers for emergencies.
Is there any guarantee for the quality of the illegally purchased Shanxi blood?
Several staff members of Xingtai Central Blood Station who had processed the blood during that period stated “All the blood was transported in iron boxes during the night. The driver went to the train station to retrieve the iron boxes and the sections and offices of the Blood Station sorted and registered each bag of blood. They replaced the labels with Xingtai Blood Station labels, numbered them, and placed them into storage. They completed all procedures of Xingtai Blood Station.”
“According to the labels on the blood bags from Shanxi, the donors had a wide variety of names. They had names of party and state leaders, famous actors such as Liu Xiaoqing, Zhao Benshan, and Gong Li, and singers such as Dong Wenhua and Yan Weiwen. Even the name of the Taiwanese Singer Teresa Teng, who already passed away at the time, was on the list. They also had names like Wang Yi, Wang Er, and Wang San which were definitely made up. If there is a problem with the blood, who can the patient hold accountable?”
“The labels should have contained detailed information and a complete record of the donors, but they were completely worthless. The iron boxes used to transport the blood was just a thin layer of iron and did not have any insulation or shock-absorbing mechanism. They were transported across vast distances to Xingtai regardless of the season.”
The Measures for the Administration of Blood Stations published in February 1995 stated: “Boxes used to transport blood must have sound insulation and soft shock-absorbing mats. The temperature of blood must be maintained between 4 and 10 degrees Celsius and violent shaking or impact must be prevented.
Professional staff members of Xingtai Central Blood Station stated “Blood taken from a human body can no longer be used for medical purposes after it is placed under room temperature for 30 minutes. Blood must be stored between 4 and 6 degrees Celsius or the red blood cells will be damaged and hemolysis will occur during the transfusion. In minor cases, the blood transfusion will do much other than damage the patient’s physical health. In severe cases, it may cause the patient’s death. The blood purchased from Shanxi was objectively unacceptable. Several blood bags had dirt on them. A professional staff member took a bag of blood and said that normal plasma is light yellow but the plasma from the blood purchased from Shanxi was obviously green, which was a frightening sight. The official at the time explained “People in Shanxi like to eat grass and that’s why their plasma is green. It could also be caused by the high amount of birth control pills they take. ‘”
An inspector of a major hospital run by Xingtai Government indignantly said to the reporter “The red blood cell count was very low. When we transfused the blood to the patient, the effectiveness was dismal and the blood transfusion caused a lot of complications.”
A nurse in Xingtai People’s Hospital talked about the use of blood at the time and said “At the time, the blood provided by the Blood Station were particularly difficult to use. We can’t complete the transfusion and our nurses would simply squeeze with their hands so that the blood flows into the patient’s veins. We know that was wrong but there was no other way.”
As many medical institutions in the counties administered by Xingtai adopted illegal private blood collection, some medical institutions did not take blood from the Blood Station. Therefore, some ‘Shanxi blood’ was not distributed and expired. According to information provided by an insider, 2,884 bags of blood in the Blood Station had expired in 1996. Xingtai Blood Station separated the expired blood was into plasma and blood cells. Most of the plasma was sold to Beijing for clinical use. Some of the blood cells were sold to a blood product research institute in Shanghai to produce blood products. Others were taken home by certain staff members at the Blood Station to water plants. It supposedly made them grow better. The rest was simply discarded.
“As the Hengshui Blood Station was just established, its blood collection capacity was still low. For a period of approximately one year, Xingtai Blood Station had supplied Shanxi blood to Hengshui Blood Station.”
In December 1996, Li Qianji, a staff member of the Information and Security Section of Xingtai Blood Station, sought out Director Zhang Junying and Deputy Director Dong Zhiguo of the Bureau of Health of Xingtai and reported the aforementioned conditions. He explained the importance of the issue and requested the Bureau of Health to intervene. Li Qianji stated that if the Bureau of Health fails to take action, as a member of the Communist Party, he was obliged to report it to superior officers. The Party Committee of Bureau of Health convened an overnight meeting on the same day and the Chief of the Blood Station was removed on the following day. In January 1997, Xingtai Blood Station stopped the illegal purchase of blood from Shanxi.
Li Qianji stated that he was only concerned about the quality of Shanxi blood and that it might not save lives. He did not connect the quality issue to AIDS. However, a report with the title “HIV Positive Donor Sold Blood 40 Times” and the subtitle “Shanxi Confirms 132 HIV Infections by Blood Transfusion” was published in a small column on the front page of China Youth Daily on May 29, 1998. The news shocked Li Qianji. The report stated that 1 AIDS patient and 134 people tested positive for HIV were identified in Shanxi, of which 132 people were verified as having been infected due to blood transfusion. The infected people lived in Yuncheng, Linfen, and Xinzhou. Among those tested positive, one individual has sold blood more than 40 times in Yuncheng and Linfen since 1996.
What was blood collection like in the mid-1990s in Southern Shanxi? Does Shanxi blood pose potential risks for spreading AIDS?
According to reports, hundreds of villagers in Xialvzhai of Julu County, Xingtai had sold blood in Southern Shanxi in the mid-1990s. The reporter visited Xialvzhai and found Liu Zhenkao and other villagers who had sold blood in Shanxi.
The villagers said that when they donated blood in Shanxi at the time, it was always a plasma-only donation. The process involved drawing 800ml of blood and collecting the plasma while the blood cells are returned to the donor. The blood collection points operated at full capacity from 8 o’clock in the morning to 9 o’clock in the evening. The donors were from everywhere including Henan, Sichuan, Hubei, Shandong, and Shaanxi. Many of them were “roaming blood donors”. They might be here for a while and would visit another blood collection point in just a few days. Liu Zhenkao said “At the time, the blood collection points only test your blood for your first donation. When you donate blood for a second time, they only measure your blood pressure.” He also said “The test items were mainly liver functions. However, as many people from their village contracted hepatitis C or hepatitis B after they returned from donating blood in Shanxi, it is obvious that the tests were mere formalities.”
When he realized that the blood purchased by Xingtai Central Blood Station from Shanxi was from Yuncheng and Lifen, Li Qianji suddenly understood just how serious the problem was. How many AIDS patients in Shanxi were selling blood? Did the “Shanxi blood” that was sold illegally in Xingtai Central Blood Station contain the blood of AIDS patients?
To find out, the reporter visited Xingtai Central Blood Station many times and interviewed Jia Yangli, the Chief of the blood collection station. Jia Yangli arranged an interview with the Deputy Chief of the Blood Station Zhu Haitian for the reporter. Zhu Haitian did not deny that the Blood Station had purchased blood from Shanxi, but claimed “Our blood station has never made a mistake in quality management and we guarantee the quality of all blood supplied by the blood station. HIV infections are just impossible.”
Li Qianji stated “For more than one year, Xingtai Central Blood Station had provided problematic blood purchased from Shanxi totaling 6.7 million milliliters. Most of the blood was used in Xingtai and accounted for more than 60% of total blood consumption during that period. In addition, more than 10,000 people received the same problematic blood in Xingtai’s medical use of blood.”
“Many of the more than 10,000 people who received problematic Shanxi blood did not receive any medical benefits from the blood transfusion. When the blood circulates in their bodies, it increases the burden of body and many patients who suffer from severe illnesses and may cause them to lose their lives. It was difficult for regular patients to understand that the blood would soon end their lives. They simply could not imagine it. It was an invisible slaughter. Were they infected with HIV? How many of them were infected with HIV? If they were infected and if they are still alive, these problems must be identified.”
The reporter has interviewed more than 30 AIDS patients in Xingtai and nearly all of them had a blood transfusion. Was their HIV infection caused by the blood transfusion? If it was caused by the blood transfusion, was it merely caused by privately collected blood? Do both privately collected blood and Shanxi blood pose risks of HIV infection?
How did the problem in Xingtai come to this? What has the local government authority done about it?
The main reason that the Xingtai AIDS and blood problem has received media and public attention was because of the hidden hero Li Qianji, his hard work over the years, and his resolve.
His life in the past few years has also changed dramatically. He was assigned to guard duty at the entrance of the blood station for 9 months in 1998. Li Qianji believed that it was a direct result of his cooperation with the local media in exposing the problems in the blood collection. On August 12, 2004, CCTV Forum aired the TV show “AIDS Prevention: Old Stories that Cannot be Forgotten” which Li Qianji had participated in production. The next day, he was suspended by his employer.
Li Qianji is now assigned to the Office of Corrections of Xingtai Blood Station.
“I firmly believe that the truth will be out in the end. I will use my action to prove that I am a worthy member of the Chinese Communist Party!”
He said in the year-end review meeting of Xingtai Central Blood Station in 2004. Li Qianji was 42 years old and has joined the Party for 20 years.
He is the most active supporter of AIDS patients in Xingtai and a whistleblower who continuously reported the truth to superior agencies. He is also an investigator and news reporter for the AIDS epidemic in Xingtai.
However, his path has been anything but smooth.
Li Qianji started his career in the military and had served as a health officer and news reporter in the army. His unique relationship with blood work started in 1986 when he was demobilized from the military and was assigned to the newly established Xingtai Central Blood Station.
He worked in the Blood Collection Section, Chief’s Office, Blood Bank, Physical Examination Section, office, Finance Section, Information and Mobilization Section, Security Section, and Office of Corrections of Xingtai Blood Station. During his services, he had been temporarily transferred to the Accounting and Finance Section of the Bureau of Health.
Li Qianji had worked as a news reporter and has always “liked to write things and get to the bottom of things”. In 1986, the year he was assigned to Xingtai Central Blood Station, he conducted investigations in Pingxiang County, Guangzong County, Julu County, and Nangong City in Xingtai. In December 1986, he drafted a report titled “Investigation Report on the Current State of Blood Transfusion in Rural County Hospitals”. He reported that there were discrepancies in the management of blood donors in rural areas, unreasonable management of blood transfusion fees, and people’s lack of knowledge of blood transfusion and donation. The investigation report was published in China’s Blood Transfusion Journal. He was later temporarily transferred to the Bureau of Health.
In 1995, he was assigned to the Information and Mobilization Section of the Blood Station for the promotion and mobilization tasks of the Blood Station. He often wrote short articles for the Xingtai Daily, Niucheng Evening News, and Hebei Daily to provide general information on blood and spread the word about exceptional personalities and performance among blood donors.
His love of news reporting and his hunger for the truth got him in trouble.
Li Qianji stated “June 1998 was a turning point for me. Before that, I worked for one purpose only — protecting the interests of the blood station. After that, I felt that blood is no longer simply a problem of the blood station but a problem of the society. It can affect the health and safety of everyone.”
For AIDS, “We Must be Prepared”
“The Shanxi blood problem was severe and I began to think that it was a violation of state policy on blood.” Li Qianji said.
After September 1995, Xingtai Central Blood Station sold Shanxi blood illegally. As an information officer of the blood station, Li Qianji voiced his opinions to the Chief several times but there was no response. He then submitted a written recommendation to the Chief.
He said “We often discussed and we decided that the use of Shanxi blood was a clear violation of China’s blood policy. We had seen with our own eyes that the plasma from Shanxi blood had turned green and could not be transfused into the patient. The conditions were worse than we had imagined. The Chief then told me that I should stay out of it as it had nothing to do with me.”
On May 29, 1998, after Li Qianji read the article titled “HIV Positive Donor Sold Blood 40 Times: Shanxi Confirms 132 HIV Infections by Blood Transfusion”, he immediately connected it with the large quantities of Shanxi blood illegally purchased by his employer, Xingtai Central Blood Station, from Southern Shanxi after September 1995. He understood the implications.
He thus drafted a report titled “We Must be Prepared” and submitted it to Xingtai Party Committee. He stated in the report:
The purchase of low-price blood by Xingtai Central Blood Station from Yuncheng, Shanxi coincided with the frenzy of blood donations by the AIDS patient in the report. The author has two concerns regarding this issue. First, as described in the article, authorities are now tracking the blood. Xingtai has used nearly 4 million milliliters of Shanxi blood which may affect more than 20,000 people. If the news is disclosed by other entities, it may create social upheaval in Xingtai. Second, vast quantities of blood from Shanxi were used in violation of regulations. Even if someone is infected with HIV, the disease has an incubation period of around 10 years. People have very limited knowledge and do not know how to properly protect themselves. If the epidemic spreads, it would have tremendous impact on the normal functions of society with unimaginable consequences.
Recommendation: First, we must use news media to educate the people about AIDS and prevent social upheaval fueled by people’s fear. Second, authorities must pay close attention to all suspected patients, identify problems, and resolve them to prevent the spread of the epidemic. Third, the vast quantities of blood purchased by Xingtai Central Blood Station from Yuncheng, Shanxi without authorization mean that it is not merely a case of malfeasance. Blood is a regulated product but certain individuals acted with such recklessness as blood traffickers. Related government authorities knew about it but failed to report it and ignored it. To demonstrate our commitment to all patients and to prepare for future investigations by other authorities, we must impose necessary penalties on the perpetrators as a warning to other would-be perpetrators.
He published the article “Private Blood Collection: Life-Threatening Secrets” in the Hebei Daily at around the same time to report the severe mismanagement of blood in Xingtai. The article attracted the attention of the Department of Health of Hebei Province, which requested the Bureau of Health of Xingtai to verify and report the matter.
However, Li Qianji was transferred from his communication role in the blood station on September 12, 1998. His new assignment was guard duty at the entrance.
A guard that inspired “Exclamation Mark” reports
Li Qianji did not idle his time away when he was on guard duty. He continued to study the blood management in Xingtai. Li Qianji used his free time to draft 44 pages of materials titled “A Call to Conscience”. He also reported the retribution against him for having published a critical report in Hebei Daily to the Mass Work Department of Hebei Daily. He provided another detailed description of the severe blood management problem in Xingtai.
In December 1998, Yanzhao Metropolis Daily sent 3 reporters to conduct interviews with the help of Li Qianji over a period of nearly one month.
On March 23, 1999, Yanzhao Metropolis Daily began a series of reports with “Red Exclamation Mark” on the front page. It published 8 articles including “Privately Collected Blood: Open Secret of Hospitals”, “Why Hospitals Take Risks”, “Fight Counterfeit Blood”, and “Shocking Blood Trafficking between Provinces” in a series of reports on the blood supply problem in Xingtai.
The reports attracted the attention of senior government officials and Peng Peiyun, Vice Chairperson of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, ordered an investigation. Yang Qian, Vice Governor of Hebei Province, also requested an investigation. Xingtai Commission for Discipline Inspection later investigated the blood supply problem in Xingtai. Certain individuals in Xingtai’s health system were disciplined. Jia Yangli, Chief of the Blood Station, was suspended from exercising the powers of the Station Chief (reinstated in 2001). In June 1999, Xingtai Commission for Discipline Inspection listed the incident as one of the ten major crimes and disclosed it to the public. The local media published the report.
In November 1999, the Bureau of Health of Xingtai formed 5 investigation teams based on Li Qianji’s recommendations and conducted additional investigations on the problem of private blood collection. The results of the investigation showed that private blood collection had persisted. The quantity of blood privately collected by county-level medical institutions from January to October 1999 amounted to more than 3 million milliliters.
Li Qianji was a member of the investigation team and the author of the investigation report. The chaos can be illustrated in an example he provided. “Two farmers took over the Township Health Department and got people from places like Shijiazhuang for their frenzied blood collection. They performed no tests other than the one test to determine the blood type. They then attached Xingtai Blood Station labels on the blood bags and sold them to nearby hospitals.”
Meeting Wang Weijun and answering “Reporter’s Questions”
In October 1999, Li Qianji met Wang Weijun, the man who had sued hospitals in Xingtai several times before finally winning the AIDS lawsuit. Li Qianji started his endless journey to help AIDS patients in Xingtai. He was shocked to find cases of AIDS in Xingtai. His long-held concern for blood problems in Xingtai was proven.
“The devil is here.” Li Qianji sighed. “I never wanted it to be true. Not at all!” “
Li Qianji headed to Wang Weijun’s house and investigated how Wang Weijun’s wife and daughter contracted AIDS. He also learned more about the AIDS patients in townships near Xiandewang.
Li Qianji was an experienced news reporter and he immediately reported his findings to Hebei Daily and other media outlets. Soon, a reporter from Southern Weekly visited Xingtai. On December 3, 1999, a report titled “Keep AIDS Away” was published in Southern Weekly.
The AIDS epidemic in Xingtai raised the alarm in the society and attracted the attention of authorities in Xingtai.
12 days later, on December 15, 1999, the article “Xingtai Blood Donation Office Chief Answers the Reporter’s Questions on Blood Collection and Supply in Xingtai” was published simultaneously in the Xingtai Party Committee Newspaper, Xingtai Daily, and Niucheng Evening News. The full text is provided below:
Media reports regarding problems in the supply of blood in Xingtai appeared in early December and other media also reprinted the news. The problem has caused concern among the people of Xingtai and our reporter interviewed the Chief of Xingtai Blood Donation Office.
Q: After the media reported problems in the supply of blood in Xingtai, people are worried about the safety of blood transfusion. Is there any guarantee for the quality of blood supplied by Xingtai Blood Station?
A: I understand that people are worried about the safety of blood transfusion. However, I can in good conscience state that as of today, there has been no report of infectious diseases caused by blood transfusion with the blood supplied by Xingtai Blood Station since it was founded. The Blood Station has been recognized for its quality control and received the Nationwide Excellence Award for Immunological Test Facilities of Blood Station from the National Center for Clinical Laboratories for two consecutive years in 1997 and 1998. However, we understand that quality will always be critical for blood management tasks and the operations of a blood station. Therefore, we will continue to implement our existing requirements for rigorous management and operations by all personnel to ensure that we always provide recipients with blood that meets quality standards.
Q: The blood station purchased blood from another province a few years ago. How was the quality of the blood supplied by other provinces?
A: Regulations allow the use of blood supplied by other provinces, but require the approval of the Department of Health of Hebei Province. The blood station purchased blood from another province a few years ago without the approval of the Department of Health. That was a mistake. That mistake was rectified a long time ago. Blood supplied by other provinces does not necessarily mean that there were quality issues. The quality assurance can be achieved by following protocols of the Ministry of Health for rigorous tests. In fact, there has been no report of infectious diseases caused by blood transfusion with the blood from other provinces supplied by the blood station.
Q: A media report stated that the Bureau of Health of Xingtai recently inspected 19 district and county hospitals and found private blood collection to be prevalent. From January to October 1999, 11,263 bags of blood (1 bag equals 200ml) were collected by Xingtai Central Blood Station. The total consumption by hospitals was 19,976 bags. The gap was 8,713 bags, which consisted entirely of illegal private blood collection or the use of blood from other regions. How do you explain this?
A: I have two points to make for answering this question.
First, the total amount of blood collected by Xingtai Blood Station from January to October 1999 was 31,558 bags and not 11,263 bags. The total consumption by hospitals was not 19,976 bags because Xingtai Blood Station had supplied 32,454 bags from January to October 1999. (The supply quantity exceeded the collected quantity by 896 bags because of the inventory before January and blood transferred from other cities with the approval of the Department of Health of Hebei Province). The media report was completely false. It shows that the so-called gap of 8,713 bags is completely baseless.
Second, to enhance blood management, Xingtai Blood Donation Office recently perform a rigorous examination of the blood consumption by medical institutions. But I need to explain that instead of merely inspecting county hospitals as the media reported, we also inspected the health department of certain townships and towns as well as all municipal and local hospitals of Xingtai. We rigorously implemented blood management, resolutely implemented the three required unified procedures, and obtained significant results. This year, we only found 1 suspected case of private blood collection in one hospital and found no other case of private blood collection in other hospitals. The media report that claimed “private blood collection found to be prevalent” is completely false.
Q: It seems that the private blood collection problem has not been completely eradicated. Can we impose a complete ban on the practice?
A: Our goal is to impose a complete ban. For this purpose, we must go after them and go after them every time. We must also sound the alarm whenever necessary. However, the success of the complete ban relies on more than the authority and officials. It also relies on the institutions that use the blood. The mission of the leading authority and leaders is to crack down on every single case of misconduct. We believe it is not right to refer to a single case as “prevalent” and thus present a wrong evaluation of our work. We also cannot pat ourselves on the back for finding only one case and relax our blood management measures.
The “internal reference” incident
Li Qianji began working with reporters of the Hebei Daily on March 14, 2000. They published reports in the Hebei Daily: Internal Reference including “2 Died of AIDS and 8 HIV Positive Cases Found in Xingtai”, “Family Member of Patient Who Died of AIDS Sues Kangtai Hospital”, and “Several Women with Blood Transfusion in Kangtai Hospital, Shahe City Show Symptoms Similar to AIDS”.
The articles attracted the attention of officials of Hebei Province who ordered investigations, verification, and implementation of control measures.
The incident also attracted the attention of the Bureau of Health of Xingtai, which conducted thorough investigations and verification. On April 3 of the same year, the Bureau of Health of Xingtai drafted the “Summary of Problems in the Article ‘2 Died of AIDS and 8 HIV Positive Cases Found in Xingtai’ in Hebei Daily: Internal Reference and Report on Blood Management Tasks” to address the incident.
The report also stated:
1. The title of the article “2 Died of AIDS and 8 HIV Positive Cases Found in Xingtai” is confusing.
Many years ago, one individual did die of AIDS, but the individual was infected in a foreign country. A few years ago, an individual was tested HIV positive in Julu County. However, his infection was completely unrelated to blood management in Xingtai. As for the 8 HIV positive cases the article claimed, we don’t know anything about them.
2. The two women (from Handan) who gave birth in Kangtai Hospital did die of AIDS. However, the results of the investigation could not prove that they had contracted AIDS due to blood transfusion in the hospital. Therefore, no causal relationship could be established between the deaths and blood management. The Municipal Government filed a special report to related authorities regarding this problem. Copies of the report were also sent to Xingtai Party Committee, government officials, and the Department of Health of Hebei Province.
3. Xingtai Central Blood Station never found any blood donor who was HIV positive. The article stated that six HIV positive cases were found at the blood station. That never happened. Of course, the blood station did find a few suspicious cases but they were dismissed after tests conducted by reputable authorities. As no HIV positive cases were ever found, the accusation in the article of “failure to take any medical or quarantine measures” is therefore baseless. In addition, if we did find AIDS, that means we are responsible in our work and should be commended. We should not be accused for it and it should not be described as “lawlessness in blood management”.
4. The purchase of blood from Shanxi by the blood station was found by the Bureau of Health of Xingtai more than three years ago. The practice was reprimanded and stopped. Since then, we had not received even one bag of blood from other areas in violation of regulations. The article renewed discussions of problems that had long been resolved to prove the lawlessness in current blood management. That is obviously false.
5. The blood station purchased never collected blood from unknown people from other places. This accusation in the article has no factual basis.
6. For a brief period of time, the blood station did have a problem with blood collection before the minimum interval period between donations was up. The problem was completely resolved more than a year ago. Since then, there has not been even one case of blood collection within the minimum interval period, and not one case of frequent blood collection. The article dug up issues that had been long rectified and claimed that they persisted to prove its conclusion of “lawlessness in blood management”. It is evidently sloppy and lacks factual basis.
7. Xingtai Blood Station has never sold blood plasma
After the promulgation of the “Law on Blood Donation”, it is illegal to sell blood plasma donated by citizens and Xingtai Blood Station has never sold it. Before the promulgation of the “Law on Blood Donation”, blood stations were permitted to sell plasma separated from blood collected from paid donors, but Xingtai Blood Station has never sold it.
8. The private collection and supply of blood by hospitals in Julu County was already investigated and processed by Xingtai Commission for Discipline Inspection last year. The author regarded problems that had already been dealt with and no longer exist as problems that persist today and that is evidently sloppy.”
Li Qianji later went to Beijing and reported the lawlessness in blood management in Xingtai to the National Public Complaints and Proposals Administration. Officials and friends encouraged Li Qianji to study in Hebei University in 2002.
Holding people accountable for AIDS epidemic ruined him
On August 12, 2004, CCTV Forum aired the TV show “AIDS Prevention: Old Stories that Cannot be Forgotten” which Li Qianji described the Shanxi blood problem.
Li Qianji intended to expose this problem and increase the awareness of the society. Many AIDS patients were discovered in Xingtai in recent years and they all had blood transfusions. The show resulted in a strong backlash from the society.
Li said that on he went back to work as usual on the following day. His department head had just returned from the office of the Blood Station Chief and said to him as soon as he entered “You don’t need to do anything now. Take a break.”
Li Qianji said that his bonuses were suspended thereafter.
On September 12, 2004, Yanzhao Metropolis Daily published a report titled “AAA Hospital’s AIDS Lawsuit”, which was co-written by Li Qianji. It provided an even more thorough report on the AIDS epidemic in Xingtai.
On September 27, he was called to the conference room and the Deputy Chief of the Blood Station Xu Beijun announced that he was suspended on grounds of incompetence.
Li Qianji told the reporter “I had to apply for leave from my supervisor to go to the bathroom. The blood station began to deduct my wages and I only received half my original salary.
Blood Station sues China Pharmaceutical News
For years, Li Qianji took the initiative and helped all the AIDS patient and their family members he knew and those that could find him. He helped them resolve difficulties in life, and he also helped them defend their own rights and interests according to the law. As a news reporter, he often conducted interviews and reported on news events. He also actively communicated with reporters in Beijing and media outlets across China to pay closer attention to the AIDS epidemic in Xingtai.
In early October 2004, China Pharmaceutical News reporter Zhang Jianguo visited Xingtai. Li Qianji provided full support and helped him complete interviews.
On November 29, 2004, China Pharmaceutical News published a report titled “How Long can the Xingtai Coverup Last?” written by Zhang Jianguo. It was a comprehensive report on the immense problems of the AIDS epidemic caused by lawlessness in blood management in Xingtai. It attracted the attention of senior official Gao Qiang of the Ministry of Health and Sun Shibin, Vice Governor of Hebei Province.
In early 2005, the Department of Health of Hebei Province issued the “Opinions for Processing Conditions Reported in the ‘How Long can the Xingtai Coverup Last?’ in China Pharmaceutical News” in the document Ji-Wei-Yi (2005) No. 2 to the Bureau of Health of Xingtai. The opinions required Xingtai to “enhance AIDS monitoring, adhere to the plans of the state, organize thorough HIV antibody screening for individuals who donated blood (plasma) in the past, rigorously implement routine AIDS monitoring tasks, pay special attention to individuals who had blood transfusions in 1995 to 1997, and implement epidemiological studies for HIV positive cases. They must implement the “Four Frees and One Care” policy and organize tests, treatment, and quarantine tasks, identify HIV positive cases and patients, implement treatment in accordance with regulations, and effectively stop the spread of the epidemic.”
The official letter also requested “swift and appropriate solution of the work problem for the comrade Li Qianji.”
However, after Chinese New Year in 2005, China Pharmaceutical News received a subpoena from Xingtai Qiaoxi People’s Court. Xingtai Central Blood Station sued the newspaper for “reputation infringement”.
The Blood Station would later reach a settlement with China Pharmaceutical News.
“Why is Xingtai trying to cover up such a severe AIDS epidemic?” The reporter Zhang Jianguo of China Pharmaceutical News kept asking the reporter of China Economic Times the same question.
The reporter therefore paid two visits to the health authority of Xingtai Government — Bureau of Health of Xingtai, and was informed on both visits that “the supervisor is not here and other people do not wish to be interviewed.”
The reporter found information on the Bureau of Health of Xingtai on the website of Xingtai Government. When local media were reporting problems involving private blood collection in Xingtai in 1999 and the risks of epidemics caused by the illegal purchase of Shanxi blood, the Bureau of Health of Xingtai still received the award of “Unit Qualified in the 1998 Health and Disease Prevention Work Target Evaluation” presented by the Department of Health of Hebei Province. When several people including Wang Weijun’s wife and daughter were diagnosed with AIDS in Shahe City and these infections were reported by many media outlets, the Bureau of Health of Xingtai received the award “Exemplary Group in 2000 Provincial Health and Disease Prevention Work”.
So many AIDS patients have been identified in Xingtai and many of them died silently without being provided with relief measures. Why did so many people contract AIDS? What was the cause? Was the blood management in Xingtai the cause of the massive AIDS epidemic? What should government authorities do to address it? Are they hiding the truth? Li Qianji has continuously disclosed information regarding the issue. Why is he always considered to be “fighting the Director of the Bureau of Health?” The reporter has not found answers to any of these questions.
However, the reporter has identified many existing threats posed by the AIDS epidemic in Xingtai. It is another heartbreaking topic.
First threat: “The people of Xingtai still don’t know the truth!”
The reporter visited Xingtai three times and talked with many AIDS patient, people who tested HIV positive, and their families. The reporter also talked with many people of Xingtai in government institutions, schools, and malls. When the reporter asked about the Xingtai AIDS epidemic, most people were confused. The healthcare staff in the hospital found it hard to believe. How can they have AIDS occurring right next to them in Xingtai?
The reporter interviewed the Vice President of a hospital in Xingtai who was devastated and told the reporter “The AIDS epidemic in Xingtai can no longer be covered up. To say nothing of other people, the healthcare staff in medical institutions of Xingtai may be infected if they don’t know anything and fail to implement protective measures. That is truly heartbreaking.”
Second threat: Alarming relief measures for AIDS patients
Most of the families living with AIDS that the reporter has seen were regular farmers. Some families spent a fortune for nothing because they didn’t know what treatment to seek and they are now in debt. The low income of the families, severe malnutrition of patients, and poverty are accelerating the death of AIDS patients. The material deprivation has caused physical distress. The mental deprivation has caused mental torment.
Many lost friends and family because they had AIDS, and even more people must live alone. The reporter has witness AIDS patients and their family members pushed close to the breaking point.
“You’re the first one to visit us.” Many AIDS patients and their family members told the reporter.
Third threat: Inadequate disease prevention measures for AIDS and patients
Many AIDS patients went home to to simply wait for death after they were diagnosed. After they went home, no health or disease prevention and medical institution ever provided them with the most basic humanitarian aid or assistance.
Fourth threat: Certain AIDS patients started “getting back at the society”
The most shocking thing witnessed by the reporter in the interviews involved a certain Mr. Gao who was diagnosed with AIDS in 1999. He has married four times since then.
That was not the only case. In a village in Chaiguan Township, Shahe City, the mother of an HIV-positive individual told the reporter that after his wife died, he married again even though he was HIV positive. The old lady told reporter discreetly “Everyone in family knows except for his wife. We’re keeping it a secret from her.”
The reporter met an individual who was HIV positive in an interview in Beijing. She was a 23-year-old girl, tall, fair-skinned, and very pretty. She told the reporter that she had thought about getting back at the society and wanted more people to experience her mental and physical distress and torment. She said “I’m innocent. I was infected with HIV because I was injured and had a blood transfusion. I tried to kill myself twice but my family managed to bring me back to life.” She has found her way to Beijing by herself. “I wanted to die in a place away from home.”