Photos: Chinese traded blood for food
Jing: Although in today’s Chinese cities, blood shortage and unsafe blood transfusion are no longer vexing issues, in the last century, China relied on paid blood donors to maintain an adequate supply. People in China’s rural regions where household income was not enough to keep body and soul together had a strong incentive to extend their arms and have the needle pierce their skins.
Therefore, many from remote villages travelled to blood-collection centers and clinics, some of which were ill-equipped or even illegal, to have blood pumped out of them for trickles of money.
Members of an entire family often joined “blood-donating rush” together to double or multiply the pay. If they had to stay overnight, they chipped in with other families for a small and cheap bungalow to save cost, and in return, got little elbow room.
Villagers beat a path to the blood-collection clinic and lined outside for their turns. The sign reads, “FOR DRAWING BLOOD, PLEASE GO TO THE SECOND FLOOR.”
The little boy who came with his parents with puzzled look in his eye didn’t know what this fuss was about.
A man who had just had blood taken was stamped with a seal on the arm.
Being in want of money had driven the rural population that was regularly on a meager diet to donate, or oven over-donate.
A mother and a son were waiting for the father next to a bloodmobile.
An advertisement for lodging near a blood-collection clinic,
This place has beds available.
Beds for married couples
Beds for single men and women.
Those who are interested, please contact the inn owner.
The “inn” is way worse than a snail house.
Jing: The profit drive dominated China’s blood-donation market in the last century. Many underground blood-collection centers mushroomed to line their pockets. By using unhygienic and even reused equipment, they took an even bigger cut on selling blood to hospitals that ripped patients off on blood transfusion. Many farmers and peasants, contracted HIV from unsafe blood transfusion. Some sources estimate the number at tens to hundreds of thousands, whereas the official figure is never available.
As for how much progress China has made in preventing contaminated blood transfusion, WHO said China’s effort and achievement is laudable, whereas some sources, including the famous AIDS activist Gao Yaojie, has much more reservations.
Here is an insightful blog post about blood transfusion in China.