Dr. Gao Yaojie, a 79-year old Chinese doctor who has been internationally recognized for her fight against the spread of HIV, has been detained by Chinese officials since Thursday, February 1st. Dr. Gao was scheduled to arrive in the US this week to accept an award from Vital Voices. As of Feb 6, Dr. Gao has been under house arrest in Zhengzhou with no access to modes of communication.
Dr. Gao spent her retirement traveling around Henan Province, spreading information about AIDS and distributing medicine. She was instrumental in exposing how a blood-selling program in central China infected thousands of people with HIV in the 1990s. She was been nominated for a Nobel Prize and has been awarded several international prizes, such as the Jonathan Mann Award for Global Health and Human Rights in 2001, and she was nominated for a Nobel Prize in 2005.
Dr. Gao has been repeatedly prohibited from traveling abroad. This time, according to news reports and AIDS activists within China, Henan officials went to her house to warn her not to travel to the US where, in addition to accepting her prize from Vital Voices, she was scheduled to hold meetings with politicians and advocacy groups in Washington.
Dr. Gao has taken extraordinary risks to expose the scope of the AIDS epidemic in China. Although China has received increasing accolades from the international community for frankly addressing AIDS, her detention is a sad illustration that speaking openly and honestly about the epidemic is still threatening to officials within China.
More information on Dr. Gao Yaojie’s detention:
International Herald Tribune
Globe and Mail
More information on Dr. Gao:
TIMEasia.com: Asian Heroes
PBS (1/3/07): China from the Inside
Women of China (12/12/05): “Gao Yaojie: a Crusader for AIDS Prevention”
China Daily (7/14/05): 108 Chinese grassroots women in race for Nobel
AFP (3/7/04): “China's AIDS whistleblower Gao Yaojie vows to continue helping sufferers”
The Peking Duck (2/26/04): “China's leading AIDS activist Gao Yaojie publicly honored”
Dr. Gao Yaojie: “My AIDS Prevention Journey” (5/1/01)
Other information on AIDS in China
Human Rights Watch’s Report: “Restrictions on AIDS Activists in China”
ABC News: “Stigma and Discrimination Fuel Spread of AIDS in China”
Letter to New York Times re: ''China's Muslims Awake to Nexus of Needles and AIDS''
Kaiser Network (1/06): “Estimated Number of HIV-Positive People in China Is 650,000”