Dr. Gao Yaojie yesterday sent me her essay in memory of Chinese Wang Shuping (also known as the American Shuping Wang and Sunshine Christensen of Salt Lake City, Utah, USA) and asked me to share it widely. Dr. Gao Yaojie, now age 91 and living in exile in New York City, and Wang Shuping came to the Henan HIV/AIDS prevention fight in different ways. They colleagues and friends. Dr. Gao tells the story of how she came to the HIV/AIDS prevention fight in “My AIDS Prevention Journey”
Dr. Gao came to the AIDS prevention fight as a recently-retired professor of gynecology in the Henan capital of Zhengzhou. Wang Shuping, thirty years younger Dr. Gao’s junior, came to the HIV/AIDS fight as a Zhoukou, Henan physician/epidemiologist who had in 1988 learned epidemiology in a three-month course given in Beijing by a Chinese-speaking U.S. Centers for Disease Control physician, Dr. Ray Yip who had come to China to teach the CDC Field Epidemiology course.
In Memory of Wang Shuping
by Gao Yaojie written with great sadness on September 25, 2019
The Chinese “blood plasma economy” spread AIDS like wildfire. Over one million people have been its victims in one way or another. Before the government admitted to the existence of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, among the four million workers in the medical field in all of China, only four came forward to fight the HIV/AIDS epidemic. In order of their engaging in the fight, they are Sun Yongde of Hebei Province, Wang Shuping of Henan Province, myself and Gui Xi’en of Hubei Province.
In Spring 1994, Wang Shuping, the director of Henan’s Zhoukou Region (now Zhoukou City) Hospital Clinical Testing Center led her colleagues in an epidemiological study of hepatitis and the HIV. In May and September 1995, they collected over blood samples from over 900 people in Xizhaoqiao Village in Shangshui County. Tests revealed that the HIV infection rate was over 20%. Among the 300 blood sellers tested, the infection rate was over 50%.
Wang Shuping’s Investigation Showed that 150 People in Xizhaoqiao Village were Infected with HIV. This was Unprecedented
Wang Shuping realized that the epidemic was extremely serious. She wrote a detailed report to the Zhoukou City Health Bureau. The report stated that “HIV infection has already been detected among blood plasma donors and donors of blood cells. The rate of HIV detection has been increasing. This is an urgent issue that must be addressed.”
Wang Shuping’s Report Rocked the Henan Province Health Department
The Henan Health Department sent “experts” to the Zhoukou City Hospital Clinical Testing Center to “investigate” the HIV/AIDS epidemic. They criticized her saying, “Wang Shuping’s lab is substandard”, saying that Wang Shuping issued her report without first obtaining authorization. Wang Shuping would not give in. She sent the blood samples to the National AIDS Testing Center in Beijing. The results of testing those HIV blood samples proved that Wang Shuping’s report was correct.
On January 10, 1996 Chinese Academician Zeng Yi Presented Wang Shuping’s Report to the PRC Ministry of Public Health
In November 1996, Wang Shuping was personally attacked. Among the unjust actions taken against her were firing her from her post and closing down Wang Shuping’s clinical testing center. In early 1997, Wang Shuping was forced to leave Henan Province. She went to the Chinese Academy of Preventive Medicine to study and to work. There she was only provided room and board. She got no salary. At home she had a six year old daughter.
In Fall 2001, Wang Shuping’s former husband came to see me. At that time I too was in great difficulty so all I could do was to ask some people to assist Wang Shuping. Later, through some other people, I got in touch with a U.S. journalist who was able to be of great help. Wang Shuping left her homeland, he family, and relatives. All by herself she went to the United States a country where she didn’t even know the language. Wang Shuping paid a high price. She lost her job, her family, and had to leave her husband and child to go far away. Below is a photo of Wang Shuping and myself at an international conference in Beijing taken on January 8, 2001.
After Wang Shuping left for the United States, she found temporary work and worked hard on her English as well. She is a very bright person and so she adjusted quickly to life in the United States. In 2009, when I made a trip to the United States, I got in touch with Wang Shuping. That year in December Wang Shuping took part in a meeting in Washington at which I was presented an award. Wang Shuping was interviewed then by the journalist Jin Zhong of the magazine Kaifang. His article on Wang Shuping was published in the first issue of 2010 of Kaifang magazine. In China, the journalist Yu Chen (Zhang Jicheng) published an article in Southern Weekender [Nanfang Zhoumo] about Wang Shuping’s contributions to the fight against the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
The Results of Wang Shuping’s Investigations of Several Dozen AIDS Villages in the Zhoukou Region, Henan
In 1995, Wang Shuping discovered the HIV/AIDS epidemic. If Chinese officials had paid attention and taken timely measures, the Henan HIV/AIDS epidemic could never have been so serious! In April 1996, I detected a case of AIDS while doing a physical examination. The patient was a women who had become infected with HIV by selling her blood. I reported the case of the Henan Health Department. I was severely criticized by government official. Officials were determined to cover up the HIV/AIDS epidemic. They put pressure on me and told me that I was not allowed to share this information.
Professor Gui Xi’en went to Wenlou Village and discovered that the AIDS epidemic was serious there. He used some personal relationships to get information about the AIDS situation in the village to the office of then Vice Premier Li Lanqing. The AIDS disaster was revealed in 2003, but that was eight years too late. If strong measures against HIV/AIDS had been taken from the start, just imagine how people would not have lost their lives to AIDS, and how many elderly people and orphans would not have been made to live their live bereft of their loved ones! Corrupt officials bear responsibility for the AIDS epidemic and other matters.
Wang Shuping was not on the AIDS prevention battlefront for long but she achieved a great deal. It is just astonishing what she managed to do.
History will remember people like her who accomplished so much. For example, there was Dr. Sun Yongde of the Hebei Province Epidemic Prevention Station. Dr. Sun was the first one to raise the alarm that hepatitis and HIV were spreading through the blood supply. He sent a report on the HIV/AIDS epidemic to the leaders of the Communist Party Central Committee. Thus Dr. Sun played a key role in preventing HIV/AIDS from spreading through the blood supply in Hebei Province and keeping the armies of blood sellers out of Hebei Province.
The blood plasma economy flourished in Henan Province. Wang Shuping was the first medical worker to stand up and fight the HIV/AIDS epidemic there. She suffered so much from the reprisals that she often came to talk with me. She wanted to write a book about her experiences. She was always so busy making a living, that she was never able to accomplish this task.
Finally, a composed this poem of condolence for her:
On the Death of My Comrade-in-Arms Wang Shuping
Rest in peace Wang Shuping
Strong winds whistle across the landscape
Heavy rains fly though the sky
Shuping! You were so persecuted for fighting HIV/AIDS
Your abrupt departure breaks out hearts!
Your career was heroic,
Your contributions to the fight against AIDS invaluable
Your accomplishments will shine forever!
Shuping, you died in your prime! I am so heartbroken