AIDS activist missing in China
HONG KONG, China (CNN) -- One of China's leading AIDS activists has disappeared amid claims by his family and friends that he has been detained by Beijing police for his attempts to shed light on the country's growing health crisis.
Wan Yanhai is widely seen as the most vocal AIDS activist in China, figuring prominently in efforts to expose an astonishing situation in the central Chinese province of Henan.
Up to 500,000 peasants in the poverty-stricken Henan province are believed to be infected with the HIV virus -- or are already dying from AIDS -- after they gave blood in a government-sponsored blood-for-money program, according to reports.
Over the past decade, local authorities encouraged the villagers of Henan to sell their blood so the plasma could be marketed in pharmaceutical products well beyond the province.
Unsanitary practices are believed to have resulted in the spread of the HIV virus, and now, whole families and villages are dying from AIDS.
Chinese authorities have been cracking down on those speaking out about the virus and friends and family say Wan was detained because of his efforts to publicize the episode.
Wan's advocacy group has been the focus of official harassment for some time, being ordered to vacate its office in Beijing's university district earlier this year.
According to reports from travelers to the Henan region, there is little medial care available to the sick, with authorities not acknowledging what has happened.
And that may be just the tip of an iceberg in rapidly changing China. There is an explosion of sex on a commercial level but discussion of sexual matters is still largely taboo, particularly in relation to the gay community.
According to local Chinese officials there could be 10 million AIDS sufferers in China by the year 2010 if nothing is done to halt the spread of the virus.
-- CNN's Senior Asia Correspondent Mike Chinoy contributed to this story
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