China threatens to cancel the 2008 Olympics
June 5, 2008 2 Comments
From the Guardian on June 4, 2008:
Suspected terrorists, subversives and people with sexually transmitted diseases will not be allowed to enter China for the Olympic games, its organisers said yesterday.
If it was required that everyone arrive with their TB and measles vaccinations in order, it would make sense from a public health standpoint, particularly for a city as densely populated as Beijing. However, banning people based on an infection spread primarily through sexual contact is entirely different.
Questions remain about what exactly the Chinese government means by this new requirement. Do they mean all STDs? Symptomatic ones? Nontreatable ones?
The reason this will likely irreparably damage the 2008 Olympics is because statistically, a policy like this will cause significant numbers of athletes and spectators to be barred from entering the country.
For example, there’s HPV, also known as the Human Papillomavirus:
Genital HPV is an extremely common viral infection. (Of the more than 100 known HPV strains, 30 are sexually transmissible and are considered genital HPV.)
Approximately 5.5 million new genital HPV transmissions occur in this country every year, representing about one-third of all new STD infections, and an estimated 20 million men and women are thought to have genital HPV at any given time.
According to a 1997 American Journal of Medicine article, nearly three in four Americans between the ages of 15 and 49 have been infected with genital HPV at some point in their life.
HPV infection, which is usually asymptomatic, is also usually harmless. The vast majority of cases are transient: The body’s immune system fights off the infection, which then either becomes inactive or resolves on its own.
So millions of people could be automatically banned, if China is intent on broadly enforcing this new reminder of the serious mistake the IOC made by awarding the 2008 Olympics to China. If this new policy is what it seems to be, there won’t be much of an Olympics at all.
Considering that China is widely considered to be ‘ignorant’ about STDs in general, and seems nothing short of genocidal in its refusal to adequately address its HIV crisis, it is likely that the bizarre ban on people with STDs could be as broad as it sounds. China is that twisted of a government, or at least it appears to be, based on reports about its other attempts to address public health issues.
From the Guardian on April 18, 2008:
The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/Aids estimates there were around 700,000 HIV positive people in China at the end of 2007.
… Wan believes that the true figure is far higher and warns – as international experts have – that the virus is spreading from high-risk groups such as prostitutes, drug users, migrant workers and the gay community to the wider population. Last year saw around 50,000 new cases. Increasingly liberal attitudes to sex – yet ignorance about the risk of STDs – and a growing sex trade are adding to the problem.
“There has been a sort of sexual revolution since the market reforms,” said Dr Heather Xiaoquan Zhang, a senior lecturer in Chinese studies at the University of Leeds.
“People are more open about sex – but in most cases that’s in urban areas among the better educated sections of the population.
“The Confucian tradition means most people still feel embarrassed to openly talk about sex. Their knowledge of risks and vulnerabilities is quite limited.”
The government has backed landmark programmes, which range from educating migrant workers on the use of condoms to commissioning public information films featuring stars such as Jackie Chan.
Yet, as Wan points out, some subjects remain beyond bounds. UNAIDS estimates that 41% of those with HIV in China were infected through heterosexual sex, 38% through intravenous drug use, 11% through homosexual sex – and almost 10% through selling or receiving blood and blood products.
The scandal over the blood-driven epidemic that spread through rural China, and particularly Henan province, was one of the factors which propelled HIV up the political agenda.
Peasants who sold their blood for money discovered they had also sacrificed their health as blood-collection services reused dirty needles.
But Wan believes that officials will not admit that transfusion was a problem – as in the Shahe case – because they are reluctant to admit to failings in the system.
“The government has admitted there’s an epidemic among people who sold blood – but not among those who received it. It has not informed the public of the risk from blood transfusions and doesn’t suggest people are tested,” he said.
This is what a broken government looks like. In this writer’s opinion, the decision to award China the 2008 Olympics was a mistake for many reasons, but the clearly destructive dysfunction of the Chinese government should have been a clue about what would ultimately happen to the 2008 Olympic Games.