by HALEY MILLAN Editor-in-chief
Dr. Gao Yaojie, widely known as the “AIDS granny”, is an 85-year-old exile from China who believes she knows the truth about the AIDS epidemic in China. Yaojie believes she has found the information that holds the Chinese government responsible for spreading AIDS – government-run blood banks infected after paying poor farmers to donate blood. Yaojie has proposed the blood bank was reusing needles and pooling the blood together.
It all started in 1996 when Yaojie was brought out of retirement as a gynecologist. She was told to treat a young woman who had undergone ovarian surgery, but after the operation, she was not able to recover.
Yaojie wanted to order an AIDS test for the woman. Other doctors did not want to test for AIDS, because they believed AIDS was a foreigner’s disease. However, Yaojie finally ordered the AIDS test, and when it came back, it was positive. Yaojie was perplexed; the woman’s husband and child did not have AIDS; therefore, she did not know where it came from.
Yaojie then considered the blood bank, which was used during the woman’s surgery, starting her investigation.
The AIDS epidemic began in 1985, and China believed all of their citizens were free of the disease. They banned the importation of any foreign blood. Because of this, they needed their own people from whom to collect blood. The government advertised that it was a quick and easy way to make money.
Thus, the people living in poverty all jumped on board. However, the blood and plasma banks did not use any sanitation codes. They reused needles and pooled the blood together, not screening any of the blood they were taking.
Yaojie visited villages across China, where she saw astounding numbers of diseased-stricken people. She was angry that the government officials had lied to their country, and especially angered that these civilians had no idea what was going on around them.
The population did not know how the disease was spread. Yaojie and another doctor, Wang Shupnig, tried to get health officials to do something about the epidemic. They wanted to inform people about the dangers of blood donations and transfusions; their bosses and the government told them to keep quiet.
Yaojie began spreading awareness on her own; she handed out pamphlets, gave public lectures, and spoke to the press. Yaojie believes as many as 10 million people are infected with the virus.
Yaojie escaped from China in 2009 to the United States, at a time when other humanitarians were partaking in similar tasks, which got them arrested. One was sentenced to 11 years in prison, which ultimately caused Yaojie’s escape.
She said, “I needed to leave to protect my children and my family.”
Yaojie is currently residing in Harlem, where she is in the process of publishing her 27th book about the AIDS crisis in China.
China has recently acknowledged that more people have died from AIDS, more than any disease in their country. Government officials released that only about 6.6 percent were affected by the blood banks; however, considering that they lied earlier, it is unknown if that is the real percentage.
Do you think China is wrong for not using the right sanitation policies in blood banks?