53-year-old Yang Shoufa lived under the impression that he was HIV/AIDS positive for 8 years. However, after checking into a hospital for a variety of health problems in 2012, Yang was informed he had been wrongly diagnosed and is now seeking 2 million yuan in compensation to make up for lost time.
During a routine check up in Henan province in 2004, Yang was tested alongside 280,000 other patients at a Zhenping County disease control center and tested HIV/AIDS positive, Sina News reports. After Yang’s diagnosis was overruled in 2012, the Zhenping disease control center retested the samples from 2004 and confirmed that Yang’s samples were in fact positive. Curious.
Deputy director of the Zhenping disease control center, Wu Zhaofang, believes there may have been a mix up in samples, stating “The test equipment did not fail, so someone must have mixed up Yang’s blood with an HIV patient.”
Having sold his blood to the black market in 1992, Yang assumed the test results were accurate. “I had donated blood once and then I suffered from repeated fevers, so when they told me I had AIDS, I was convinced. I thought it was my destiny,” Yang said in an interview with The Paper via SCMP. Despite annual checkups that showed his CD4 T cells to be much higher than other HIV/AIDS patients, Yang and doctors assumed the initial test results were accurate.
In China, where AIDS and HIV still carry negative social stigmas and even children are often left to fend for themselves, the misdiagnosis impacted every aspect of Yang’s life. As a result of his diagnosis, he was ostracized by his community, divorced by his wife and lost his three children. The farmer said he felt “like a prisoner on death row.”
Zhu Qian, director of the HIV/AIDS prevention institute in Henan, is working with other Zhenping health authorities to devise a compensation plan for Yang. He wants 2 million RMB. “This was an extremely rare incident but Yang’s tragic experience should ring alarm bells,” Zhu told Xinhua, “Extreme precaution should be taken to prevent such a tragedy from ever happening again.”
At the end of 2015, China had around 575,000 people living with HIV/AIDS, and the numbers are continuing to rise. While steps are being taken, such as province-wide testing and the development of a circumcision device that was approved by the World Health Organization last summer, HIV/AIDS is still on the rise and China will need to be more diligent when testing for the disease.
It also points to the importance of getting reevaluations in serious medical matters, but even that is not always full proof. Earlier this month, the story of one man who was shocked to discover his kidney had gone “missing” following a routine chest surgery went viral on Chinese social media. While the man visited multiple hospitals that confirmed his kidney was “gone,” in the end it turned up exactly where it should be, just shriveled up to the size of a sesame seed, much to his disappointment.