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Wang Wang, who helped expose the rural AIDS crisis in China, dies at 59



Shoping Wang, a Chinese doctor who bravely lost her job, as well as ostracized, attacked and disrupted her first marriage to expose the spread of AIDS in rural China, died on September 21 in Salt Lake City. She is 59.

She died while walking in a canyon with her husband Gary Christensen. A pre-autopsy showed the cause was a heart attack, he said. In recent years, she has lived in Salt Lake City after settling in the United States.

Her death came just over two weeks after a stage play based on her experience as a whistle blower, discovered in London.

Dr. Wang has worked relatively quietly for two decades as a medical researcher in his adopted country, most recently at the University of Utah. In her opinion, colleagues are sometimes unaware of her dramatic past.

Dr. Wang's pride in what she achieved was aroused by what she and her family had been through. After she took evidence of H.I.V. infections of staff and researchers in Beijing, her superiors in Henan attacked her.

A former medical officer, she said, uses a club to break Ms. Wang's lab and beat her. Local government shut down the lab, leaving it free of charge. Her marriage to an official working in the medical administration cracked under pressure.

A play based on the story of Dr. Wang, "The Palace of the King of Hell," by Francis Ja-Chou Kohig, recently had its premiere. at the Hampstead Theater in London.

"My speech was worth my job, my marriage and my happiness at the time, but it also helped save the lives of thousands and thousands of people," Dr. Wang said in a question-and-answer session on the theater's website. "I wanted to prevent the disease, I didn't care about power and the situation."

Shuping Wang was born Zou Shuping on October 20, 1959 in Fugu County, Henan. Her mother, Huang Yunling, was a village doctor; her father, Zu Bagian, is a math teacher who was a soldier in the nationalist forces defeated by Mao Zedong's communists.

After Mao started the Cultural Revolution in 1966 to cleanse China of alleged enemies, Dr. Wang's parents were attacked by her father's background and her education was interrupted when she was 8. She resumed school five years later, after leaving her home village and being adopted by her uncle. She took his last name Wang for her own.

In 1991, after medical school, Dr. Wang began working at the Phenan Collection Center in Henan. Her odyssey to AIDS activism begins with her interest in hepatitis, another infectious disease spread through blood and other body fluids.

Henan had fueled a boom in commercial blood collection, raising hundreds of thousands of poor farmers to sell blood for a few dollars, Dr. Wang found alarming levels of hepatitis C among people selling blood, and she worried that H.I.V. can also spread through the blood business.

Her bosses make fun of her. Chinese officials perceived AIDS as a foreign affliction and were reluctant to accept that H.I.V. can spread to farmers selling blood. In addition, they said, comprehensive testing for H.I.V.

Dr. Wang persisted. She used her savings to buy three H.I.V. test kits and randomly tested 408 virus samples. What she found amazes her: thirteen percent of the samples collected from blood sellers had the virus, an alarmingly high infection rate.

Commercial blood stations operated inexpensively. They took blood, removed the precious plasma and, through the transfusion, gave the sellers residual blood so that the stations could pay less and sellers recover more quickly to sell again. Station equipment was often dirty. Worse, they often mix the residual blood in baths, then pour it into groups of blood sellers, which significantly increases the risk of cross-infection.

Initially, a local employee praised Dr. Wang for her detective work, but soon withdrew and blamed her for missing evidence. She took 55 samples in Beijing for more tests. The Virology Institute refused to test them unless it paid an excessive amount. But Dr. Wang came across a researcher who understood the urgency of the matter and had 16 samples tested: 13 were definitely H.I.V. positive, three possibly positive.

"She had the courage to continue collecting and sharing data, even when employees did not want information to be disclosed," said Zhang Jicheng, a former Henan journalist who helped expose the spread of AIDS there. interview. "She had no official support; it was her personal choice and she suffered for it. ”

She became a pariah among her colleagues. At one meeting, he formally referred to a "man" who had reconciled himself to AIDS.

"I'm the guy from the clinical research center you just mentioned," she told him. "But I am a woman."

Wang moved to Beijing in 1997 to find some protection working for a senior medical researcher. It was not the only concern about the spread of AIDS in rural Henan.


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