Dr. Gao Yaojie, the doctor who exposed AIDS epidemic in China, dies at 95
Dr. Gao Yaojie had exposed how businesses selling blood caused the spread of HIV in rural China.
Chinese doctor Gao Yaojie, known for having exposed the AIDS epidemic in the rural part of the country, died at the age of 95. Yaojie was a gynaecologist by training and was one of the first doctors who spearheaded campaign against AIDS epidemic in China.
Yaojie had exposed how businesses selling blood caused the spread of HIV in rural China. According to a report by BBC, selling blood was a common practice in rural China, especially in the Henan province in the 1980s and 1990s. Poor farming communities engaged in selling blood to earn a living. However, the practice was not properly monitored and at times, blood was also collected from HIV+ patients.
At that time, awareness for AIDS was not very high. Chinese authorities believed that HIV could only be transferred through sex or from mother-to-child during pregnancy. Yaojie came across an AIDS patient who didn't fall in either category but had received blood through transfusion.
She launched an investigation and visited more than 100 villages in China where AIDS patients were on the rise. Due to her expose, blood-selling practice was stopped in Henan by officials who had initially tried to cover it up.
Years later, in an interview with the BBC in 2010, Yaojie claimed that blood-sale practice was illegally happening in China despite the threat of spread of diseases like AIDS.
"It's bigger. It's nationwide, everywhere. I have seen everything with my own eyes. Blood selling is illegal. In the past, it was open and public. Now, it's underground," said Yaojie.
How Gao Yaojie exposed apathy of Chinese authorities towards spread of AIDS
Authorities in Henan province were not taking required steps to stop the blood-selling practice despite Yaojie's pleas. She exposed the health crisis through a New York Times reporter.
"After Dr. Gao failed to bring the problem of Aids spread by blood purchase stations to the attention of the Henan provincial government, she brought the story to a reporter for the New York Times," said Professor Andrew Nathan at Columbia university, who helped her to settle in New York.
"The story of the Henan blood-sales Aids epidemic (was) on the front page of the newspaper, and it became an international scandal, which then influenced the Chinese government to do something about it," added Nathan.