Arthur Stuart - the "People's Doctor" for Sierra Leone
This obituary hightlights the extraordinary life of Dr. Arthur Stuart, who practiced medicine in Freetown, Sierra Leone. After the violent coup in 1997, Dr. Stuart fled the country, stating: "What a relief to be free of the soldiers who would cut a pregnant woman's belly open to settle a bet whether she was carrying a baby boy or a baby girl, amputate arms so that the owners wouldn't be able to vote, burn down houses indiscriminately, put a gun into children's mouths and threaten to shoot if they were not given money and kill innocent bystanders with their indiscriminate shooting." This is a powerful testament to a courageous doctor. [ article
] posted at 19:29
China on Verge of AIDS Explosion
NewsMax.com Wires. Friday, June 28, 2002. SHANGHAI, China – Health officials estimate 850,000 Chinese are infected with human immunodeficiency virus, an increase of more than a quarter of a million over last year's figure. Health workers and experts say many more people who might have contracted the infection that causes AIDS are not accounted for in the central government's statistics.
For example, a recent U.N. report has put the number of HIV-infected Chinese at more than 1 million and warns China could have 10 million HIV/AIDS sufferers by 2010 unless it acts decisively to educate the public, prevent the further spread of the virus and treat those already afflicted.
In the June 28 issue of the American journal Science, researchers Joan Kaufman and Jun Jing argue that China's vast population and slow response to rising numbers of infected people is threatening the world's largest nation with an AIDS epidemic of staggering proportions. The article traces the growth of the AIDS epidemic in China from needle-sharing heroin abusers in the early 1990s to unregulated blood donations across rural regions and the growing prevalence of sexual transmission. It calls for a national action plan to combat the spread of HIV.
Nearly two-thirds of the reported cases of HIV/AIDS in China are from drug-abuse injections and blood transfusion or donations. But the authors warn the country has witnessed a rise in the number of infections through sex, particularly among homosexuals and prostitutes.
"Increasing rates of HIV infection among commercial sex workers in several provinces, many of whom inject drugs, are beginning to bridge to the general population, fueled by low condom use and little knowledge of AIDS," the researchers wrote.
Jing, director of the Institute for Social Policy Research at Beijing's Tsinghua University, said the Chinese government needs to adopt more progressive approach to HIV prevention and treatment. She said public health initiatives in Uganda and Thailand, in which national leaders took an active stance in promoting "safe sex," have proven successful in reducing the number of HIV infections.
"What this means is that China's leaders need to show a personal interest in AIDS prevention and become better informed of the situation," Jing told United Press International.
Beijing went public with its fight against the disease last year. It was host of the first national conference on HIV/AIDS and unveiled a five-year plan to combat the spread of the virus.
Jing said the move was long overdue and an important step, but still insufficient to avert a large-scale AIDS epidemic.
"Poverty reduction agencies, family planning departments, law enforcement institutions, women's groups, research centers, and health care organizations need to coordinate their work," Jing said.
She explained the war against AIDS in China must be fought on the local level, in remote regions of the country where local officials continue to conceal rising rates of HIV infection, balk at national prevention and treatment programs, and often deny medical care to AIDS patients.
"Quite often local officials are afraid that if the areas and people under their jurisdiction are known to be suffering from the epidemic, outside investment and tourists would stop coming," Jing said.
On the national level, HIV/AIDS education and health care initiatives can take full advantage of the comprehensive family planning infrastructure found throughout China, she said.
"The family planning infrastructure should no longer function only as a birth-limitation entity," Jing said. "For too long, its function has been limited to birth limitation and thereby birth reduction."
Health officials said ignorance has precipitated the spread of HIV. Many people in China still remain unaware of HIV/AIDS, even though some of them already have the illness.
'They Don't Care'
"Most Chinese people are not willing to talk about sex or sexually transmitted diseases with their doctors," Xue Yili, a physician with the Shanghai AIDS Surveillance Center, told UPI. "I have spoken with many young people who had never even heard of the virus, and others who say they don't care."
Many people continue to believe that HIV/AIDS is a foreign disease, she said. In Shanghai, soon-to-be married couples are not required to be tested for HIV. Foreigners are tested routinely.
There are no reliable national systems for tracking the spread of the virus. National campaigns to hand out condoms and educate people about HIV/AIDS have been short-lived, Xue said.
Like many other health care officials in China who are trying to break the silence about the virus, Xue believes the country is teetering on the verge of a catastrophic AIDS epidemic.
"When millions of people start dying from the AIDS virus, then maybe the general population will wake up to the threat of infection," she said. "This is a problem that will get worse unless we act."
Meanwhile, most of China's HIV victims remain anonymous, such as Ren Wei, whose downward spiral began with the prick of a needle during a routine blood transfusion that infected him with the virus.
Ren, a successful 25-year-old civil engineer, has been a hemophiliac since childhood, a condition that requires him to receive regular blood transfusions while on business travels around the country.
Less than a year ago, Ren tested HIV positive. Within months, he was forced to quit his job and his wife left him and returned to her hometown in central Hubei province, taking their four-year-old child.
'I've Lost Everything'
"I've lost everything, my family and friends, my life," he said. "Once people learned that I had the virus, they didn't want to be around me. It was like all of a sudden I ceased to exist to them."
He is one of thousands, if not millions, of undocumented HIV carriers in China, who refuse to seek treatment at state-run hospitals after testing HIV positive, fearing abuse and public ridicule.
"I'm afraid to go to the hospital, that people won't help me," he said. "All I can do is wait to die."
Reprinted with permission from NewsMax.com Copyright 2002 by United Press International. All rights reserved.
posted at 06:16