AIDS threatens peoples everywhere,

but AIDS activism threatens governments, including China now.

The news item is now about a week old. A major Chinese AIDS activist, Dr. Wan Yanhai, "disappeared" sometime after August 24. Relatives and human rights groups believe he has been detained by the police.

I delayed posting anything last week, because I was expecting immediate follow-up news or, absent news, a large outcry in the world's press. But nothing.

The activist, Wan Yanhai, is a former Chinese health official who was fired after he took up the causes of gay rights and AIDS in the mid-1990's. He has been involved in various small but influential projects in the last few years, including a Web site about H.I.V. and the creation of small support groups for patients.

He has also been instrumental in exposing a devastating AIDS epidemic in central China that is centered on Henan Province, where as many as a million poor farmers were infected through unsanitary blood collection schemes.

We don't know anything about his whereabouts, or the circumstances of his disapparance, but we do know a lot about him, and it's awesome. This is just for starters:
A small, soft-spoken man who generally works behind the scenes, Dr. Wan nonetheless absorbed some of the confrontational style of American AIDS activists during a 1997 fellowship in Los Angeles.

At a regional AIDS meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malyasia, two years ago, Dr. Wan rose from the audience to confront China's vice minister of health, who was at the podium.

More recently he has been involved in creating support and counseling groups for people with AIDS in rural China.

Last week, the Health Ministry received two petitions, which Dr. Wan's group had helped prepare, from farmers suffering from AIDS.

"We demand that the government provide free medicine, or medicine we can afford, and we demand the government produce copies of Western medicines as quickly as possible," read one petition, signed by 30 patients from Sui County in Henan.


Below is the listing for just one of the many new actions springing up to support Wan. Wan is a brave, honorable man and one of China's foremost AIDS experts--he is a great asset to China as it confronts the AIDS epidemic. He has been working to improve conditions for people living with AIDS in China for 10 years. He has the respect of the international community of doctors, relief workers, and others. The head of UNAIDS, Peter Piot, is greatly concerned about Wan's detainment.

Katie Krauss






Wan Yanhai, China's foremost AIDS activist, was detained by the police in Beijing on August 24. Wan, a current Fulbright scholar, has helped thousands of people affected by AIDS. He exposed a blood selling business in the Henan province that has infected 500,000 or more poor farmers with HIV.

Wan is still in detention and under “examination” by the police. Activists believe that he was detained because he exposed the horrific AIDS epidemic in the Henan province.

With the epidemic escalating, Wan Yanhai's Web site ( has become one of the only independent sources of information on AIDS in China. He has founded support groups, AIDS education street outreach programs, and the first AIDS hotline in China. On September 13, Wan received the 1st Annual Human Rights Watch Award for Action on HIV and Human Rights.

At the current infection rate, the UN estimates that China will have 10 million people with HIV/AIDS by 2010. To avoid this catastrophe, Dr. Wan must be allowed to continue his groundbreaking work.

Chinese activists have urged public displays of solidarity that are powerful but restrained. Please join us at the Chinese consulate to request Dr. Wan's unconditional release and the support, not obstruction, of his efforts to fight AIDS in China.

Need More Information? Call ACT UP @ 212-674-9598 or email [email protected]

Participants will include Amnesty International, the Chinese American Planning Council and the Gay Asian and Pacific Islander Men of New York.

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Published on September 4, 2002 12:08 PM.

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