The incident says a lot about China’s fight against HIV. After years of inaction and denial, the government has begun to address the problem. High profile meetings between HIV patients and political leaders are one solution, intended to address the stigma and educate the public about the issue.
Just as significant is the hefty increase in funding for prevention programmes and antiretrovirals for patients. There are public information films and the first strategy addressing the needs of men who have sex with men - one of the highest risk groups.
“There’s been a lot of change,” said Wan Yanhai, director of the Aizhixing Institute and one of the country’s leading Aids/HIV activists. “This generation of leaders - Hu Jintao, Wen Jiabao and Wu Yi - have met people with Aids. They have increased the national budget, opened up to international donors and they tolerate some civil society involvement in provision.”
But when it comes to addressing difficult questions, when activists embarrass officials, or when it comes to implementing policy, the shortcomings of this zeal are clear. Experts fear that leaves China at risk of an epidemic if further improvements are not made.