hasty lockdown by Hubei authorities of all major cities within the province has created a host of problems for residents with various medical needs, ranging from minor inconveniences to life-and-death situations.he
One young man living with HIV learned the hard way when he found himself stuck at home in a village on the outskirts of Tianmen, a city in central Hubei that is home to 1.3 million people. With just eight days of medication left on him, he decided to put out a desperate call for help on Sina Weibo.
“Hi, I’m HIV-positive and as you may know, HIV is an RNA virus that is capable of mutating much like the Wuhan coronavirus,” the 21-year-old make-up artist wrote in a post dated Friday. “I have to take my meds at a set time everyday and if I miss my medication, I could end up having to switch to an imported drug that costs 3,000 yuan a month.”
“Because the city is on lockdown, I can’t make my way to the hospital to get my prescription. Will the Tianmen Public Security Bureau please help me? The woman manning your hotline told me that she is unable to help me, no matter how unique my situation is. I have just eight days of medication left. Does the government expect me to just sit around and wait to die?”
Anti-retroviral drugs help suppress HIV to undetectable, and therefore untransmittable levels in blood but failure to adhere to a daily regime can lead to drug resistance due to mutations in the virus.
HIV-positive patients are given access to made-in-China generics free of charge but if they develop resistance and have to switch to a more novel drug that is foreign-made, they will have to pay for their medication out-of-pocket.
Additionally, the drugs are disbursed to patients at a hospital of their own choosing (most cities are home to one such hospital). To prevent abuse of the system, patients that have opted to get their medication at a hospital (usually the one in whichever city they’re living in) may not get their drugs from any other hospital.
As his post started getting viral (it’s since been shared more than 15,000 times), the Tianmen Public Security Bureau reached out to him on Saturday through Weibo, and he thought he could finally heave a sigh of relief.
But whatever relief he felt soon gave way to a sense of utter dread. A village police officer showed up at his family home and instead of bringing him life-saving drugs, ended up telling his parents about his health situation. The officer also pressured his parents to get him to delete his now viral Weibo post.
A fierce argument soon ensued between the young man who felt his right to patient privacy had been infringed, and the police officer who was adamant he had done nothing wrong.
In the heat of the moment, he snapped a photo of the officer and promptly uploaded it to Weibo in another missive directed at the Tianmen PSB: “You don’t even care about the situation and sent a village police officer to my home and outed me to my parents. Are you really solving any problem at all?” he fumed.
Online trolls soon descended on his Weibo page, denouncing him as a “big baby” who should apologize to the officer for uploading his picture on social media without his permission.
“Can all of you trolls just go and die? Can you spare a thought for my parents and think whether they’d be able to accept all this at their age? Even if they don’t do anything untoward to themselves, how will others in the village see them? Grow some conscience. Do you want to see me dead? Am I wrong for just wanting to get my medication? Am I at fault for just wanting to live?” he responded.
“There are many other HIV-positive patients in Tianmen who are stuck in their villages and can’t get to town to get their drugs,” he added. “We are not looking to take any public resources. We just want clearance for HIV-positive patients to get get the drugs they need to live.”