Blood donation is an effective way for the public to directly contribute to saving lives, and its safety is an essential component of public health. In central China in the 1990s, the failure to ensure basic safeguards in the commercial blood donation process had devastating consequences for the HIV/AIDS epidemic that still reverberate today. An estimated 55,000 people were infected with HIV through unsafe blood donation. The outbreak systematically destroyed family, social, and economic structures, and over two decades later, the death toll is still rising. The advent of blood commerce in Henan province and the subsequent catastrophic HIV outbreak were unsurprisingly precipitated by various economic, governmental, and socio-behavioral factors. After the outbreak was discovered, an extensive HIV screening campaign was conducted, followed by ongoing surveillance among blood donors. It is important in the examination of the disaster to acknowledge contributing forces which gave rise to one of China’s most severe HIV outbreaks, which continues to shape the landscape of blood donation and blood supplies in China today.
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