Chinese people with AIDS-infection tainted blood transfusions

A Chinese court on Thursday was deliberating a claim for 30 million yuan (US$3.7 million; Ђ3 million) in a lawsuit by 16 people who contracted the AIDS virus through tainted blood transfusions, a court official and media reports said. The lawsuit against Bei'an Construction Farm and its hospital is reportedly the first claim of its kind for compensation for HIV infections due to infected blood. Thousands of people were infected in the 1990s through unsanitary blood-buying and tainted transfusions.

The Heilongjiang Farm Intermediate People's Court was expected to deliver its verdict as early as Thursday, said a court official contacted by phone. He refused to give his name or any other information. A total of 19 people contracted HIV after the hospital used blood sold by a couple who later died of AIDS, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

Fifteen people contracted HIV after they received the tainted blood, while another four their spouses and children were indirectly infected, Xinhua said. Last June, the hospital director was sentenced to two years in prison and the deputy director to five years, Xinhua said, without detailing the charges.

The official in charge of blood testing at the hospital received a 10-year prison term, Xinhua said. The court has been hearing the case since Tuesday, Xinhua said. It said the two sides are fighting not over whether the hospital and farm are liable, but on how much money should be paid out.

The government says China has 840,000 people who are infected with HIV and 80,000 with full-blown AIDS. But health experts say the true figures are much higher, and they warn that without more aggressive prevention measures, the country could have 10 million infected people by 2010, reports the AP. N.U.